Workers at a Tallahassee Starbucks filed for a union election, making it the first location in the Sunshine State to begin the process of formally organizing.
Hourly workers at the giant coffee chain’s 2264-1 N. Monroe St. store announced they petitioned the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for union representation Wednesday.
The petition was filed with the agency the day before, according to the NLRB website.
A Starbucks spokesperson told the Democrat Thursday that the company intends to honor and abide by the unionization process laid out by the NLRB to ensure all employees can vote.
“Our leaders (in Tallahassee) are committed to listening to those partners as we do in all of our stores around the country,” she said. “We respect their voice and and want them to have their voices heard.”
Calum Johnson, a barista and union committee member, said more than 75% of employees, which Starbucks calls “partners,” signed union authorization cards over the weekend.
The 24 signees are made up of both baristas and shift supervisors, Johnson added.
“I was nervous, but now looking forward to it because there’s an obvious need for it,” Johnson said, pointing to the high percentage of employees who added their signature. “Now, we want a fair election. We’re not going to stand down.”
This election filing comes less than a month after a location in Buffalo, New York, led the first successful attempt at unionizing within the giant coffee chain — an effort that’s motivated other locations around the country to organize.
This includes another Buffalo store that had its union effort certified victorious by the NLRB on Monday.
“We were really inspired by the store in Buffalo (that) did win and decided that we wanted to participate,” Johnson said. “It’ll be great to have our voices heard and a chance to get a seat at the table.”
The Tallahassee store’s union committee is fighting for better benefits, increased recognition of seniority, stricter COVID-19 safety practices and, in general, more of a say in day-to-day operations at the location, according to Johnson.
By the end of summer, the minimum hourly wage for Starbucks baristas across the country will be $15, a retail spokesperson said Thursday.
Additionally, the spokesperson said the company has prioritized safety in the workplace by offering pay to partners in isolation after a COVID exposure, or positive test result. Soon, Starbucks employees who are not fully vaccinated will be required to produce a negative test results each week.
However, smaller decisions, like whether or not the store will close its dining area amid a surge in cases, are made by individual store and district managers.
Chatter of unionizing the Tallahassee store began around early December and was spurred on by a change in management, said Oliver Carter, a shift supervisor at the North Monroe location.
Some baristas thought of transferring to neighboring stores before they realized they would face the same district-level issues, including a lack of support and agency, Carter said, adding: “They don’t trust our input despite the fact that we’re the ones there every day.”
The group has held numerous Zoom meetings to brainstorm, network with their fellow partners in Buffalo and prepare for the public announcement — and potential union-busting efforts.
The group’s letter directly addresses what they see as the company’s previous union-busting efforts in stores in Buffalo, which saw out-of-town managers question employees about their workplaces and help with small tasks like throwing out trash, according to the New York Times.
“We are outraged that partners you claim to care so deeply about are being mistreated gaslighted, and harassed in their own stores due to your union busting efforts,” the two-page letter reads.
For now, the union committee will continue to spread awareness of their missions and goals until an election date is set, which can take months.
“Whatever happens, I am excited to be part of this movement within the company,” Johnson said. “My partners and I are all in this together.”
Contact Christopher Cann at email@example.com and follow @ChrisCannFL on Twitter.
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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Tallahassee Starbucks shop first in Florida to file for union election