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The Starbucks unionization effort grows in Tallahassee as more stores join in

A group of people protest outside a local Starbucks store
Brett Rutherford
WFSU Public Media
Starbucks workers hold a demonstration as several local stores try to unionize.

More Tallahassee Starbucks stores are joining efforts to unionize. The first was a Starbucks on North Monroe. Now, other local stores in the chain are following suit.

“We really want to start advocating for the actual partners, not necessarily what corporate is advocating for,” said Emilie Rott, a barista at the Magnolia Drive Starbucks, during Wednesday’s demonstration. The Magnolia Drive location is one of the recent additions to the local union effort.

“So the biggest push here is just really showcasing what the partners want which is to unionize, which is in direct contradiction with what corporate is trying to say but that’s really the biggest push is we really want to start feeling like our needs are being addressed here.”

Rott did not say what those specific needs are but said employees should have a bigger say in their jobs. Rott said the sentiment for unionization has existed for a while--but seeing a Starbucks in Buffalo become the first to unionize late last year was a catalyst for the local push.

The efforts at unionization at some Starbucks locations have been met with resistance from managers. In Memphis, several Starbucks employees were fired amid a store’s effort to unionize. The employees say they were fired in retaliation for their efforts. A spokesman for Starbucks told The Washington Post the workers were fired for having an after-hours news conference at the store, which they called “significant violations” of safety and security policies.

Calum Johnson, an employee at the North Monroe location where local unionization efforts began, said management has already begun union-busting meetings.

“When they have the opportunity to say something kind of scary to partners who might not know as much as others, such as ‘Everything is on the negotiation table,’” said Johnson. “While that is a fact and is true, the only party, the only side that isn’t going to be fighting for more for us would be Starbucks.”

Ethan Bischof, who works at another Tallahassee Starbucks location, says a regional manager threatened employees with a loss of benefits if they proceeded with unionization. “I found that quite disgusting,” said Bischof, “that we are being threatened by our employers for just trying to get what we are legally allowed to do.”

Ruth Castro, an employee at the Magnolia Drive location, said they have not received any direct corporate pushback. “Even if there is a little pushback on the Starbucks side, I don’t think that it’s anything that is super harmful.”

Rott said the Magnolia Drive location is following all the rules and that no employees have been threatened with termination. “There’s been no concern because we’ve done nothing wrong.”

“We’ve been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us,” said a Starbucks representative, “and that conviction has not changed.”

Rossann Williams, Starbucks Executive Vice President, told partners in a letter in December, “the vote outcomes will not change our shared purpose or how we will show up for each other.”

Follow @bgrutherford99

Brett Rutherford is a reporter and news researcher at WFSU Pubic Media. From Riverview, Florida, he has earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Florida State University. During his time at Florida State, he was a reporter within the sports department at WVFS, the student-run on-campus radio station. In 2020, he served as Sports Director during his senior year and hosted the weekly talk show Tomahawk Talk.

Email Brett: brutherford2@fsu.edu