Loop Starbucks workers move to form union, following national trend – CBS Chicago


CHICAGO (CBS) – Inspired by Starbucks workers in New York City seeking better pay and working conditions, employees at a Loop store launch a union organizing campaign.

The national movement toward unionization began to take shape in Chicago some time ago. The Randolph and Wabash location is one of 4 stores in the area to file for unionization in the past few months. Partners, as Starbucks employees are known within the company, are organizing for adjusted hours, higher wages and more affordable health insurance. They try to unionize on a store-by-store basis, which Starbucks says is completely unnecessary.

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The Starbucks business has over 9,000 stores in the United States and does not believe that each store with its own contract fits its business model. Instead, Starbucks filed a petition with the National Labor Review Board to have partners vote at the district level, encompassing more stores.

When a store files a petition to unionize, Starbucks management holds optional meetings with partners and more senior members of the company. They say the purpose of these meetings is to give partners an idea of ​​what the unionization process will be like and to make sure partners are aware of all of their current benefits as members of the company.

While Starbucks insists they are not anti-union, unionized workers see these meetings as a way to intimidate them and persuade them not to vote for a union.

In protest at what some employees see as anti-union, pro-union organizers recently picketed cafes when these meetings took place.

“They come in and give their camp and hope that some pressure from above will break our resolve,” said Sara Spry, barista at Starbucks in Logan Square.

“They don’t want to have to pay fair wages to their workers. They don’t want us to have a say in the business. They don’t want a real partnership with us,” said Brick Zurek, shift manager at a Starbucks in Randolph and Wabash.

Zurek was one of the first employees to start organizing a union at their Loop store. They say working conditions have clearly made unionization a next step.

“It was getting super busy, we were understaffed, overworked. Working the last shift, Zurek said, “I’m supposed to be there until 8:30 p.m., and we were there until 10:30 p.m. or 11 p.m. — constantly.”

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Workers say their reason for seeking union representation ranges from low wages, insufficient health insurance and safety concerns, especially in inner cities.

“We had people come in and threaten to shoot us. Someone smoked crystal meth in the bathroom. She said a specially trained cleaning crew was called in to clean the bathroom.

“There’s just been people who kind of get aggressive, whether it’s seven in the morning or three in the afternoon, and they’ll start fighting and throwing hands at people,” he said. said Zero Muñoz, barista at the Randolph. and Wabash Starbucks.

Management responded to these incidents by holding a roundtable with store partners and ensuring they filed official reports. Starbucks insists that the safety of their partners is a priority, Zurek and Muñoz say that conversations with the companies were insufficient and that they wanted more guarantees about their safety on the job.
After the filing, even the threat of voting to join a union prompted changes from management.

“Now they’re listening to us, aren’t they?” We haven’t even won the elections yet, but they take us seriously now. And that’s just the power of the union, isn’t it? We have a security guard on the store premises from the evening hours. Even just being physically there is a deterrent,” Zurek said.

“The only reason they are listening to you and at this point is because you applied for union membership beforehand,” Muñoz said.

Employees at the Randolph and Wabash store say senior executives have been making a lot more appearances lately. Workers at other unionized Starbucks had warned them of more management visits after the filing.

“It’s kind of following the steps of what we’ve seen and other stores across the country and what they’ve been reporting to us and saying. It’s more our senior management, our district manager, our regional manager who come more frequently,” Zurek said.

Chicago workers say their inspiration and playbook came from the first Starbucks stores to unionize in Buffalo, New York. They say Buffalo workers provide guidance on how to unionize properly.

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“The management is not going to protect us from people who threaten to bring weapons. We have to defend ourselves. So we saw them do it in Buffalo and were inspired,” Zurek said.


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