St. Charles baristas seek to form a union


St Charles, MO.– Hourly workers at the Starbucks at Fifth Street and Boonslick Road in St. Charles last week joined a growing movement to form unions at Starbucks stores nationwide.

They also joined baristas from seven other Starbucks in the St. Louis area who previously formed local unions.

Mari Orrego, a Midwest regional organizer for Starbucks Workers United (SEIU), said workers at the St. Charles store are the latest to form a union within Workers United.

Their issues include low pay, cutbacks in working hours, and poor working conditions, she said.

Tyrone Shivers, a barista trainer at the St. Charles Starbucks who supports the union organizing there, said he was earning just $12 an hour after working at the store for about 18 months.

“We were supposed to be getting a wage increase late last year, and that was pushed back until June of this year, and that was pushed back again until August,” Shivers said. “We don’t know if we will get the increase in August.”

He said the increase was supposed to boost their pay to from $15 to $17 an hour.

Shivers said some workers’ hours had been cut to fewer than 20 a week, jeopardizing their medical care benefits.

“And there’s not really a seniority system,” he said, noting that a woman who has worked at the store for seven years was earning the same hourly pay as some newly hired workers.

In a letter e-mailed last week to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and signed by the St. Charles store’s union supporters, the workers wrote: “You say that you are not anti-union but ‘pro-Starbucks,’ yet we are both pro-union and pro-Starbucks. We are not outside agitators that are attacking your business – we are the ones running the floor and making those connections.

“We show up every day for this company and give our best, despite the difficult conditions we have been put under. We care about our customers and want to provide them with the best customer service possible. It is unfair for customers to have an unpleasant experience because our labor has been cut to improve your profit margins, yet you keep increasing prices – which has not benefited partners in any way.

“We agree that Starbucks’ best days are ahead – but after witnessing multiple levels of incompetence at the corporate level, having gone through due diligence in trying to resolve the issues, and issues continuing to repeat themselves regardless, we feel that a union is the only way that it will truly happen.”

Management had not directly responded to the letter, Shivers said. Even so, he said, some managers have told workers not to unionize and that they would be treated better soon.

The seven other St. Louis metro stores that have organized workers are at:

  • Lindbergh Boulevard and Clayton Road.
  • Natural Bridge and St. Charles Rock roads.
  • Hampton and Wise avenues.
  • Kingshighway and Chippewa Street.
  • Clarkson and Baxter roads.
  • Highway 141 at Interstate 44.
  • Hanley Road and Dale Avenue.

All have filed petitions for National Labor Relations Board elections, Orrego said. Nationally, Starbucks workers have filed petitions for union elections at more than 250 locations in 35 states. More than 75 stores have voted to unionize since the effort began last year.

The St. Charles workers are organizing with Workers United, the same international union that backed successful organizing campaigns in Buffalo, NY; Grand Rapids, MI; Mesa, AZ; Seattle, WA; Oak Creek, WI, and Overland Park, KS. According to Workers United, an overwhelming majority of eligible employees at the St. Charles location signed union authorization cards.


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