Downtown Cincinnati Starbucks Becomes First in City to Unionize

Workers at the Fourth and Vine Street Starbucks location won their union vote this week.

Jun 24, 2022 at 1:39 pm
click to enlarge The Starbucks at 401 Vine St. is the first unionized Starbucks in Cincinnati. - Photo: Provided by Starbucks Media Site
Photo: Provided by Starbucks Media Site
The Starbucks at 401 Vine St. is the first unionized Starbucks in Cincinnati.

As of June 23, the Starbucks at 401 Vine St. downtown is the first of the coffee mega-giant's local stores to unionize.

According to a release from Workers United Chicago & Midwest Regional Joint Board (CMRJB), which represents the Cincinnati store, the bid for union representation passed in "a landslide victory."

"These baristas were the first in Cincinnati to join the Starbucks Workers United
movement that has swept the nation," says Workers United CMRJB's media relations coordinator MC Floreani in a release. "Now, they are the first unionized Starbucks
location in the city."
Store organizers released a statement of their own, saying, "Partners at 4th and Vine are proud of each person's effort and support in their unionization process. Together, we will continue to create an environment that respects and values the individuality and appreciates the work of each unique partner."

The workers at the Vine Street Starbucks first filed for a union representation election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in April, with an "overwhelming majority" signing union authorization cards, per a release — only 30% is required.

At that time, employees signed a letter addressed to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz saying they intended to unionize in order to "create a more positive, healthy, and respectful work environment." The letter stresses, in part, Starbucks' failure to nurture its workers — referred to as "partners" in corporate lingo — which is part of the company's stated mission.

Lou Shamblin, one of the leaders at the Vine Street store, told CityBeat in April, "I was inspired to start unionizing because I did not feel that corporate management was giving us partners the proper support. This entails security, wages and other benefits. Other stores across the nation were what really inspired us to join the labor movement. I believe that seeing corporate pushback in other stores, from unfair firings to corporate presence, is what really opened my eyes to why this was important. I truly believe that unionization will put power into the hands of partners who feel unheard under the current Starbucks management system."

In May, Starbucks locations in Columbus and Cleveland became the first in the state to unionize. Starbucks employees at those stores cited concerns about COVID safety measures, burnout and unlivable wages amid the company's record-breaking first quarter revenue growth as reasons for seeking unionization.

While similar grievances were vocalized by Vine Street Starbucks workers, Shamblin noted that for their store in particular, they wanted to place a unique emphasis on "partner individuality."

"I wanted to share how we fostered that culture with little support from corporate management, though that is the atmosphere they encourage in their stores," they said.

According to a story published earlier this year by Vice, at least 200 Starbucks locations have filed with the NLRB to have their unions recognized, and Workers United CMRJB says more than 160 stores have won their union elections.

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