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The Starbucks on W. Tennessee becomes the latest to announce unionization efforts

Starbucks
Craig Moore
/
WFSU Public Media
The Starbucks on West Tennessee Street becomes the latest to announce unionization efforts

More than 90 U.S. Starbucks locations have filed for unionization so far, even in areas where unionization has not been historically popular. The latest is the Starbucks on West Tennessee Street. It recently announced it has become the 96th location to file for union representation.

Starbucks barista Luke Nasworthy is the organizing committee member at the W. Tennessee Street location. In an interview with WFSU, Nasworthy said working conditions have deteriorated since the pandemic began in 2020.

“It feels more like a fast-food restaurant than it feels like what Starbucks used to feel like when it comes to being a coffee shop,” he said, noting the store has experienced problems such as failing A/C units and plumbing leaks that have made it difficult for employees to do their jobs.

“We’d be able to have more of a say on what needs to be done, how the store needs to be un and just overall be able to hold leadership accountable for things like that, hopefully,” he said.

Many Starbucks workers have said the company has pushed back on them amid growing efforts to unionize. Nasworthy said he’s heard the same from management—that forming a union would put a third party between employees and their employer.

The West Tennessee store joins two other Tallahassee Starbucks located on Magnolia Drive and North Monroe Street in filing for unionization. Earlier this month, a demonstration was held at the Magnolia Drive location by Starbucks employees to showcase their solidarity.

In a prepared statement in response to increasing unionization efforts, a Starbucks representative said “We are listening and learning from the partners in these stores, as we always do across the country. Starbucks' success—past, present, and future—is built on how we partner together, always with Our Mission and Values at our core.

"We’ve been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us, and that conviction has not changed. Rossann Williams, evp and president, North America, has also shared with our partners that we respect their right to organize and will bargain in good faith.”

The extent of that good faith is being tested.

Earlier this week, a Starbucks in Hialeah announced its unionization effort. The effort marks a significant turnabout in an area of the state that is Republican-dominated. The Republican Party has traditionally been anti-union. Hialeah native and store organizer Will Suarez said the number of union cards collected and turned in already represents a majority of workers.

“At the current composition, we win the election,” Suarez told sister-station WLRN.

Suarez cited the increased use of delivery apps during the pandemic that has brought about increased workload, alongside exploding rental rates and other costs of living as reasons workers in the Hialeah store have decided to unionize.

Starbucks has set up a webpage explaining the company’s stance on the issue.

Under a section titled, “Why is Starbucks asking partners to vote “no”?” it says, “We know we aren’t perfect, but we believe our challenges are best addressed by working together.”

Yet, one of the nation’s largest unions, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), is blasting the company for what it believes are union-busting efforts, and it points to the firing of several Starbucks employees at a Memphis, Tennessee store as an example.

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.