Two More Ohio Starbucks Stores Are Forming Unions

Workers juxtaposed the company's financial health with the strain that staffers have worked under during the pandemic.

click to enlarge Employees at multiple Cleveland-area Starbucks stores are trying to unionize. - PHOTO: PROVIDED BY STARBUCKS MEDIA SITE
Photo: Provided by Starbucks Media Site
Employees at multiple Cleveland-area Starbucks stores are trying to unionize.

Workers at two Cleveland area Starbucks locations have announced their intent to unionize, riding an organized-labor wave at Starbucks stores nationwide which began in Buffalo, New York. In Cleveland, the downtown West Sixth Street location was the first to announce its unionization drive. 

Friday, employees at both the Clifton Boulevard store near the Cleveland-Lakewood border and the location at the intersection of Mayfield and Lee roads in Cleveland Heights will file for union elections with the National Labor Relations Board.

In a letter to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson, signed by a majority of employees at the Cleveland Heights store, the workers noted Starbucks' record-breaking first quarter revenue growth and juxtaposed the company's financial health with the strain that staffers work under during the pandemic.

"Many of us are unable to make our monthly payments, afford groceries and
childcare, or self-sustain due to unlivable wages and cut hours," the letter read. "We are at risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 to our fellow partners and loved ones. The inadequate policies for only five days of paid isolation and a limit of two paid isolations per quarter are unrealistic and unsupportive of our needs."

The letter said that employees have pleaded for "simple adjustments like credit card tipping," but that these requests have fallen on deaf ears at the district management level.

Workers at both locations aim to form unions with Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union that backed the Buffalo effort. 

Filing for a union election is only the first step for the local locations. And Starbucks, much like other corporate entities, views unionization antagonistically. It has worked to delay votes and persuade workers to vote against unions, and workers are counting upon corporate to do the same here.

But workers at the West Sixth location ardently support the two stores that announced their intent to file Friday.

“We are excited to welcome our friends at the Clifton and MayLee stores into our fight," said Maddie VanHook, a barista at West Sixth and a member of that location's union organizing committee. "We are stronger together, and every day we are one step closer to securing justice and equity in our workplaces. We couldn’t be prouder of all of our partners involved in making this happen for themselves today."

This story was originally published by CityBeat sister paper Cleveland Scene.

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