Starbucks baristas vote to unionize at West Rogers Park store

Workers at a Starbucks in West Rogers Park narrowly voted to unionize Wednesday, making their store the fifth unionized Starbucks in Chicago.

Baristas at Starbucks at 6075 N. Lincoln Ave. voted 4-3 to unionize with Starbucks Workers United, the branch of Service Employees International Union that represents Starbucks employees across the country.

“The main reason is to give people the support they need while working at Starbucks,” said Sean Plotts, a shift supervisor at the store and a member of the worker organizing committee there.

That could mean employees getting more hours, Plotts said, so baristas don’t have to work “a job and a half” or have more daytime coverage in the store so they can better handle customer volume.

Plotts, who has worked for Starbucks for more than five years, said he and some of his co-workers work more than one job to make ends meet.

Plotts said he works 30 to 35 hours at Starbucks each week and earns about $23 an hour. He has a second irregular freelance job in liquor inventory at a bar in the Loop. Plotts said he would like to work more hours at Starbucks if there were hours available to him.

As of last week, baristas had unionized at 200 Starbucks stores across the country, according to the National Labor Relations Board. In all, employees from more than 300 stores in 36 states had stood for union elections before the NLRB. Of the approximately 250 elections that had been held, 40 were union losses.

“We will respect the NLRB process and negotiate in good faith with stores that have chosen to be represented by Workers United. We expect the union to do the same,” a Starbucks spokesperson said in a statement.

In a statement, Workers United International Vice President Kathy Hanshew called the Starbucks union’s victory “a huge step forward for their movement and for all Chicago workers.”

“The bosses at Starbucks are no match for this new generation of union activists, and they are no match for a united labor movement that remains steadfast in its commitment to supporting them,” Hanshew said.

In Chicago, workers at eight Starbucks have stood in union elections since January. Starbucks Workers United won its first election here in May, when baristas at two Edgewater Starbucks voted overwhelmingly to unionize. In early June, the union won a victory in Hyde Park while narrowly losing two elections in the Loop and Palmer Square. The following week, baristas at a Bucktown Starbucks voted almost unanimously to unionize. Today’s vote brings the union record in Chicago to five wins and two losses.

Starbucks has opposed the union drive in its stores. Nationwide, the Starbucks union has filed hundreds of charges with the NLRB alleging a variety of unfair labor practices. As of last week, the NLRB’s regional offices had issued 18 complaints against the company covering 80 cases of unfair labor practices across the country.

In the Chicago area and in Peoria, workers have filed complaints of unfair labor practices ranging from threats of retaliation against workers who support the union to promises of benefits to an employee if they don’t support them, WTTW reported last month. Starbucks told WTTW that it denies the claims.

Workers at a unionized Starbucks in Edgewater went on strike a month ago, asking Starbucks to remedy what they described as chronic in-store staffing shortages. A shift supervisor at the Edgewater cafe told the Tribune that he suspected the understaffing was the result of corporate retaliation for unionization; Starbucks denied the claim, calling it “categorically false.”

Starbucks reported record revenue between April and June, posting $8.2 billion in revenue during the quarter.

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