3rd Starbucks in Minnesota votes to unionize

By: - June 7, 2022 12:10 pm

A Starbucks on Snelling Avenue in St. Paul. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

A third Starbucks store in Minnesota is unionized after the National Labor Relations Board tallied workers’ votes on Monday with 12 voting in favor and five against.

The election at the St. Anthony store — at 3704 Silver Lake Road — is the latest success in a wave of unionization efforts across the country. Workers at more than 280 Starbucks stores across the country are seeking to unionize, and the vast majority have won the more than 120 elections held so far.

Last month, workers at two Starbucks locations in St. Paul and Minneapolis became the first Minnesota stores to unionize. Workers at three other Minnesota locations —  including at the Mall of America and in Eden Prairie — have filed petitions with the NLRB seeking elections to unionize with Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union.

Anton DeBorst, who’s worked at Starbucks at different locations since 2014, said he pushed for a union at the St. Anthony location because he believes it will help workers win higher wages, better benefits and a greater voice in how the store is run.

“I can go to my manager and ask him (for) things … but there’s little to nothing that will come of it,” DeBorst said. “With a union … you can’t ignore me now.”

Starbucks has earned praise for its relatively high wages and benefits for baristas. In 2017, the company began offering baristas six weeks of paid maternity leave, which the company expanded to new dads the following year.

Early in the pandemic, Starbucks continued to pay baristas even if they didn’t work, as the company had to temporarily shutter stores. It also offered store workers two weeks of paid leave to quarantine after an exposure.

DeBorst said the benefits Starbucks offers are good, but they haven’t kept pace with inflation and don’t reflect the company’s wealth.

“A company as big as Starbucks, and the amount of profits they make, there’s definitely so much more that they could do,”  DeBorst said.

Starbucks has declined to voluntarily recognize unions at its stores, instead requiring workers to vote in an election overseen by the NLRB, which often gives management time to beat back unionization drives.

A spokesperson for Starbucks shared a statement saying they don’t support unionization but respect their workers’ right to organize.

“We are listening and learning from the partners in these stores as we always do across the country. From the beginning, 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,” the statement reads.

The company faces allegations of illegal union busting across the country, including firing workers in Tennessee for their union activity. In Pennsylvania, an administrative law judge found the coffee chain illegally retaliated against two baristas.

DeBorst says workers weren’t retaliated against at his store, but the company did wage a misinformation campaign, erroneously telling workers that they would lose their benefits while negotiating a first contract, which can sometimes take a year or more to finalize.

DeBorst said the company posted fliers in the store highlighting the good things the company has done for workers and insinuating those benefits could go away if workers voted to unionize.

“That was a hard battle to try to get some of the people that were really uncertain of that to be a little more confident that .. we wouldn’t ever sign a contract that would make them lose any of the benefits that they currently have,” DeBorst said.

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Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Previously, he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.