NEWPORT NEWS—Employees at Starbucks store #9316 at Oyster Point Shoppes, 340 Oyster Point Rd. in Newport News, are in the process of unionizing. In a letter they sent to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, they stated, “We have all witnessed the deterioration of our store’s conditions, inadequate training, and lack of transparency from Corporate. Through unionizing, we expect improvements in staffing, scheduling, pay, and labor hours.”
The unionization process began by individuals in the store talking to other staff members, telling them what unions are about and what they can do, and gauging interest in joining a union. Those who were interested signed cards showing their support.
“When we filed for our election, we had these cards, a list of everyone working at the store, and the appropriate paperwork that we sent to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) as proof that we had enough support to hold an election,” said Duncan Young, a barista at the store who has been spearheading the movement. “The NLRB only requires that 30 percent of employees sign a card, but we waited until we had more than half because we wanted to be confident that we’d be able to win. We don’t want Corporate to use lost elections as proof that unions don’t work.”
If the vote is successful, the employees at Starbucks store #9216 will form a new “local” union that will be part of Starbucks Workers United. Starbucks United is a collective of Starbucks Partners across the country. “We, the partners working in the store, would write our own contract, but we would have access to the training and resources that Workers United can provide,” said Young.
For the record, Starbucks United has posted that they are not anti-Starbucks. In a document released by the Buffalo, New York region of Starbucks Partners, they wrote, “We are pro-Starbucks and pro-union. We want Starbucks to be the best it can be. Many of us have dedicated years of our lives to this company, and those of us with less seniority want this to be a place we can make a sustainable career. Starbucks is the leader in the coffee industry. It should also be the leader in collaborating with its partners to raise standards of living and working in the industry.”
Starbucks United is part of a larger organization called the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). SEUI was founded in 1921 and currently represents approximately two million workers worldwide. If authorized, the new local union in Newport News will be the first to unionize in the Hampton Roads area and would include four shift supervisors and 15 baristas.
“We sent our application in on April 11 and the NLRB agreed that we have the support we need,” said Young. “An agent will come out and conduct an in-person election sometime in mid-May, and the results will be publicly announced as soon as the votes are counted. If enough of us vote ‘yes,’ we will officially be a unionized Starbucks location.”