First St. Louis area Starbucks locations file for union elections

Managing Editor

SERVE THEIR COFFEE UNION STRONG: Citing reduced hours and other policy changes, workers at the Ladue Starbucks, located on south Lindbergh Blvd. at Clayton Road, filed paperwork with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) March 29 calling for a union election to join Starbucks Workers United. Three days later, on April 1, workers at the Natural Bridge and Rock Rd. location in Bridgeton, Mo., also filed a petitioned for a union election with the NLRB. – Labor Tribune photo

Four area locations join national organizing wave seeking union status

Ladue, MO – Workers at the Starbucks, located at Lindbergh Blvd. and Clayton Road, filed paperwork with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) March 29 calling for a union election to join Starbucks Workers United. Three days later, on April 1, workers at the Natural Bridge and Rock Rd. location in Bridgeton, Mo., also filed for a union election with the NLRB.

On Monday, April 4, workers at two more St. Louis area Starbucks locations announced that they are organizing the stores at Kingshighway Blvd. and Chippewa St. (3700 South Kingshighway Blvd.) and Hampton and Wise avenues (1216 Hampton Avenue) in south St. Louis City.

Employees at the Ladue store complained of managers ignoring safety concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic, promising, and then delaying raises, and cutting hours so drastically a number of workers have been forced to seek second jobs or quit.

One employee said the store’s former manager announced her resignation in February, telling the staff “Starbucks is going to start doing some stuff and I don’t want to be here for it.”

Barista Jon Gamache, 28, said he got a raise from $11 an hour to $12 late last year, and employees were promised they would get a second raise in May, but the implementation has been pushed off to June with excuses for the delay ranging from the company not being able to afford the raises to accusations that employees were dating food improperly.

Starbucks employees who work 20 or more hours a week qualify for health and benefits, and paid college tuition through Arizona State  University, but Gamache said managers have begun scheduling workers only 4-to-5 hours per shift and no more.

“There’s a guy here that was working 39 hours a week who’s now getting four to five 4-to-5 hours shifts a week,” Gamache said. I was working 35 hours a week, now I’m working 14. You don’t get benefits at 14. It’s drastic, going from 40 hours a week to 20, you just lost half a job.”

Barista Carle Helberg, 22, said workers at the Ladue store saw the unionization effort taking place at other Starbucks stores and decided they needed to be part of it.

“We think Starbucks is a great company, but there have been changes in the past few months that don’t match what they say they stand for, and we don’t agree with, and we think we can fix them by having a union.”

The Starbucks workers are organizing with the Chicago & Midwest Regional Joint Board of Workers United (CMRJB), an affiliate of Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

According to Workers United, an overwhelming majority of eligible employees at the Ladue Starbucks signed union authorization cards.

In a letter e-mailed early to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and signed by the store’s union organizing committee and supporters, the local workers wrote:

“Despite being a highly profitable store during a highly profitable time for the company, we are being gaslit by management that we suddenly cannot afford sufficient staffing. Partners fear they will not meet their benefits eligibility, and many have felt forced to seek second jobs or new jobs entirely. Since new management has started cutting hours, fully a dozen members of our staff have left for other jobs. Those of us who remain face rock bottom morale and constant lies from management. We are announcing our union because we know we can stop this. There are other options than walking away: We can fight back. We no longer are able to trust Starbucks to do the right thing. As a unionized store, we (would be) happy to help drive the company in the right direction.”

In their own email to Schultz, workers at the Hampton and Wise store wrote:

“For far too long the idea of ‘partnership ‘expressed by the company has been extremely one-sided… As partners, our voices need to be properly heard, and a union represents the foundation by which we can freely choose when and where our concerns are expressed.”

And workers at the Kingshway and Chippewa store wrote:

“Starbucks continues to be hugely profitable, so much so that the outgoing CEO was given a $60 million exit package… yet the company fails to provide livable wages and thwarts our financial wellbeing by cutting scheduled hours.”

The Starbucks unionization push began late last year, when two locations in Buffalo, N.Y., filed for and won union elections.. Since then, workers at more than 150 company-owned Starbucks locations have filed for union elections, including three in the Kansas City area.

In a statement of support, Megan LeRose, an organizing committee member at the 39th and Arrowhead store in Independence, Mo. said:

“I am really excited to see partners in St. Louis join the union movement. Our movement has sparked solidarity across the country and it is just the beginning in the Midwest. Each new petition inspires even more (workers) to organize. We are overworked and undervalued, and it isn’t an isolated incident. The work conditions partners deal with are universal and together we inspire each other to demand the respect we deserve. To my fellow partners in St. Louis, I am so proud of you and can’t wait to see your organizing pay off for you and other stores in your area! Keep close to your heart what brought you to file today through the journey ahead. Seeing you join us just further confirms that we are doing what’s right for us and workers beyond our company, and keeps me passionate about the work ahead. ”

Gamache said the organizing push is important not only for Starbucks’ workers but for others in the food service industry.
“If we’re getting benefits that other fast-food people don’t get and we can do this, then that’s something that they need to do too,” he said.

You can follow Starbucks baristas’ growing unionization effort on Twitter at @SBWorkersUnited and @CMRJB.


One Comment

  • I will never cross a picket line. Never. Stand tall against management. They have gotten incredibly rich off your efforts. Score another one for working men and women.


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