Controversy is percolating
San Antonio Starbucks workers brew up plans to become first unionized location in Texas
Workers at a Starbucks store in San Antonio want their workplace to become the first of the coffee shop chain’s Texas locations to join a labor union.
A letter posted February 7 on Twitter by the Starbucks Workers United union and bearing the names of nine employees laid out plans to unionize the store at Loop 410 and Vance Jackson Road in Northwest San Antonio. If the effort succeeds, the store would be the first in Texas — a largely union-unfriendly state — whose workers belong to a labor union.
“In order to provide the best care for our customers and fellow partners,” the letter says, “we stand in solidarity with stores across the country to unionize and stand up for our needs.”
The letter is addressed to Starbucks President and CEO Kevin Johnson.
The company believes its stores shouldn’t unionize. As the Wall Street Journal reported, Starbucks says a union would harm the chain’s “direct relationship” with its employees and divide workers who often travel among stores to ease staffing shortages. However, Starbucks indicates it will respect the results of union votes and will bargain with workers at individual stores that approve unionizing.
Starbucks is feeling the heat after firing seven workers leading unionization efforts in Memphis, Tennessee. The company says it fired the employees for violating store security protocols, while the employees accuse Starbucks of retaliating against them, which Starbucks denies.
For their part, the nine San Antonio workers who signed the letter say their store already enjoys a union-like culture.
“We already act like a union. We want to take what we have already, put it on paper, legalize it, protect it, and expand our ability to advocate for our needs and for each other’s dignity,” the San Antonio employees wrote. “Unionizing gives us the power to speak up for ourselves, our peers, and our organization with a powerful collection of voices — all intent on improving the Starbucks experience for everyone.”
According to The Guardian newspaper, a Starbucks store in Buffalo, New York, recently became the first unionized company-owned location since the 1980s. Starbucks fought that effort. Now, employees at more than 50 Starbucks stores in the U.S. are seeking to unionize, allowing them to negotiate with the company as a group over pay and working conditions.