Bloomfield Starbucks employees announce unionization drive | Pittsburgh City Paper

Bloomfield Starbucks employees announce unionization drive

Employees at the Bloomfield branch of Starbucks announced the start of a campaign to unionize their store on Feb. 11, decrying Starbucks’ firing of seven employees at a Memphis, Tenn. store also attempting to unionize. The Bloomfield Starbucks Organizing Committee are the first Starbucks employees in Pittsburgh to request a union election from the National Labor Relations Board, according to a press release from the Pennsylvania Joint Board. In order to successfully certify their union, a majority of employees must vote in its favor.

Starbucks spokesperson Reggie Borges told The Washington Post that the Memphis firings were unrelated to the store’s efforts to unionize, citing instead “significant violations” of safety and security policies, which, the Post reported, included remaining in the store after hours with non-employees for an interview with local media.

In an open letter to Starbucks’ CEO Kevin Johnson, the Bloomfield Starbucks Organizing Committee outlined their solidarity with Memphis partners as well as a series of grievances with the company, including low pay and poor working conditions.

“In the Starbucks boardroom there is an empty chair, symbolizing us: the baristas and play-callers who cannot be at the table,” the Bloomfield Starbucks Organizing Committee writes in the open letter.

“We are done with symbolism,” they continue. “We want our seat at the table to be tangible, physical, real. A union is the way to do that. We ask that you: do not interfere with our request for an election; leave your union-busting tactics at the door. We are stronger together and we deserve better. Please remember that the core of Starbucks is not just the coffee and customers — the core of Starbucks is its partners.”

Workers at the Bloomfield store are seeking to unionize with the Pennsylvania Joint Board, which is an affiliate of Workers United. “Workers United has over 80,000 members in North America, working in the laundry, hospitality, manufacturing, apparel and textile, distribution and food service industries including baristas, as well as some workers who are employed by nonprofits,” the Pennsylvania Joint Board writes in a Feb. 11 release.

“Pittsburgh is a union town,” the Bloomfield organizers wrote, “it is our turn to join that history.”

A Starbucks spokesperson gave the following statement in response to the Bloomfield store's announcement:

"We are listening and learning from the partners in this store 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.

She also noted in a letter sent to all partners in December that 'the vote outcomes will not change our shared purpose or how we will show up for each other. … We will keep listening, we will keep connecting and we will keep being in service of one another because that’s what we’ve always done and what it means to be partner.'”

This story was updated at 2 p.m. on Fri. Feb. 11 to include a statement from Starbucks.