Employees at Downtown Cincinnati Starbucks Take First Steps Toward Unionization

The coffee shop at 401 Vine St. is the first Starbucks in the city and sixth in Ohio to organize.

Apr 13, 2022 at 10:29 am
click to enlarge Employees at the Starbucks on Vine Street in Cincinnati are the first in the city to seek unionization. - Photo: Provided by Starbucks Media Site
Photo: Provided by Starbucks Media Site
Employees at the Starbucks on Vine Street in Cincinnati are the first in the city to seek unionization.

Downtown Cincinnati Starbucks workers have taken the first step toward unionization. Employees at the coffee shop at 401 Vine St., Downtown filed Monday for a "union representation election" with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), per a release.

The Vine Street Starbucks is the first in Cincinnati to seek unionization, and the sixth in Ohio, following efforts by workers at Starbucks locations in Cleveland and Columbus. An "overwhelming majority" of workers signed union authorization cards, according to the Chicago and Midwest Regional Joint Board of Workers United, the labor union that sent out the release.

According to a recent story by Vice, at least 200 Starbucks locations have filed with the NLRB to have their unions recognized, and 18 of the 19 stores that have held elections have won their union vote (as of April 12).

In a letter to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, the employees at Cincinnati's Vine Street store said they intend to unionize in order to "create a more positive, healthy, and respectful work environment." The letter stresses, in part, Starbucks' failure to nurture its employees — referred to as "partners" in corporate lingo — which is part of the company's stated mission.

"Starbucks prides itself on its mission to 'nurture the human spirit' — our experience has not reflected that mission statement," reads the letter. "Corporate management in recent years has failed its partners by being nothing short of neglectful. To 'nurture' means to care for and to encourage growth and development. To 'nurture the human spirit' entails the presence of care for each partners' diverse and complex needs while encouraging the emergence of their own unique identities. Starbucks failed in its mission by continuously ignoring the needs of its partners and by hindering their development."
  Employee letters from other Ohio Starbucks locations seeking to unionize have also noted issues with COVID safety measures, burnout and unlivable wages amid the company's record-breaking first quarter revenue growth.

In the letter to Schultz, the Vine Street employees — specifically all hourly full-time and part-time employees, including baristas and shift supervisors (store managers and assistant store managers are excluded per regulations from the NLRB) — "respectfully and formally demand that Starbucks recognize our union."

In a provided statement, Workers United International Vice President Kathy Hanshew said of the efforts:

"Starbucks is a multimillion dollar corporation that tries to pride itself on working in partnership with its employees, all while silencing the workers and denying them their right to union representation and a collective voice. Starbucks calls its employees 'partners,' but it is abundantly clear that this so-called partnership is one of  convenience for the company, that leaves many employee concerns unheard. It is time for Starbucks to do the right thing, acknowledge the voice of their 'partners,' and allow their workers to unionize without interference.”

The aforementioned Vice article notes multiple instances of Starbucks retaliating against employee union organizers at stores across the country by illegally firing them.

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