Starbucks workers vote to unionize 6th store in metro Phoenix | Phoenix New Times
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Starbucks workers vote to unionize 6th store in metro Phoenix

But the baristas are frustrated with the coffee giant's refusal to bargain with the union.
Despite a growing number of National Labor Relations Board complaints against the coffee giant, Starbucks has maintained that it is not anti-union.
Despite a growing number of National Labor Relations Board complaints against the coffee giant, Starbucks has maintained that it is not anti-union. Elias Weiss

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When Sabrina Martinez, a shift supervisor at a Starbucks store in Gilbert, first heard about the efforts to unionize Starbucks locations nationwide, she couldn't imagine herself taking part.

"Catch me dead unionizing," she recalled thinking at the time. "Because I don't want to lose my job."

Now more than a year after a Starbucks in Buffalo, New York, became the first of the coffee giant's locations in the country to unionize, Martinez has become a union organizer herself. In April, Martinez's store — located at McQueen and Guadalupe roads — voted to unionize.

The store is the seventh Starbucks location in Arizona to vote to unionize. Five stores in metro Phoenix — two in Mesa, one in Avondale, one in Phoenix and one in Litchfield Park — and another in Tucson have already joined the Workers United labor union’s campaign.
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Starbucks workers and NFL Players Association leadership gathered on April 14 in Avondale to raise awareness about the coffee giant's union-busting tactics.
Katya Schwenk

Labor wins for Starbucks workers in Arizona

On Feb. 25, 2022, a Starbucks store in Mesa — on Power and Baseline roads — became the first Starbucks location outside of New York to vote to form a union.

In the year since the election, workers at the east Valley location have been on the frontlines of the nationwide fight to bring Starbucks to the bargaining table. In November, workers shuttered the Mesa store in a daylong strike protesting the company's union-busting tactics.

Martinez told Phoenix New Times that she started working at Starbucks in 2020. However, issues with management, as well as low pay and inconsistent hours, caused her to look into unionization. For months after first contacting Workers United, she hesitated to bring the idea to her coworkers.

But last fall, she began to spearhead the charge at the Gilbert store. She formed an organizing committee with other interested coworkers. And in February, workers at the store announced their plan to file for a union election.

"Starbucks publicly promises benefits and competitive pay; they fail to deliver," the workers wrote in their election filing. "Management lacks the consistency that is needed for partners to keep the store running." In a list of demands, the employees outlined their goals for the union: A safe and inclusive workplace, livable wages and consistent hours.

The day the election filing was announced was a nerve-wracking one, Martinez said.

Starbucks has come under fire for retaliating against union organizers at its stores — including in metro Phoenix. Laila Dalton, who tried to organize a union at a Starbucks store on Mayo Boulevard and Scottsdale Road, was fired amid the union drive. She has since become a national voice for Starbucks workers in the labor movement.

"All of us are new to this, so it's very scary when you're getting told you're going to lose your job over something like this," Martinez said.
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Starbucks workers in Mesa went on strike in November 2022.
Katya Schwenk

Growing complaints against Starbucks

Despite a growing number of National Labor Relations Board complaints against the coffee giant, Starbucks has maintained that it is not anti-union.

The election at Martinez's store was held on April 10. Of the 19 workers who cast ballots, only two opposed unionization.

Now that the Starbucks location is officially a union shop, Martinez's focus has turned to bargaining. Since the first slate of Starbucks shops voted to unionize, Starbucks Workers United has been fighting to get the coffeehouse chain to the bargaining table. But the union claims that the company hasn't been cooperative.

On April 25, the NLRB filed a complaint alleging that Starbucks has refused to bargain with nearly 150 unionized stores — about half of the total 300 unionized Starbucks locations nationwide. None have successfully negotiated contracts with the coffee giant yet.

"It's frustrating," Martinez said of Starbucks' refusal to bargain. "For a company to claim to be all about the partners and inclusivity and all of that, and they're not even picking up the phone — it's very contradictory."
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