Bay Area/ San Jose/ Food & Drinks
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Published on May 22, 2023
San Jose Starbucks Workers Vote Unanimously for Unionization as More Stores Join the MovementBryan Angelo on Unsplash

Workers at a central San Jose Starbucks store have unanimously voted in favor of unionizing, marking a significant moment in the growing movement against the coffee giant's supposed mistreatment of its employees, according to a recent San Jose Business Journal report.

The decision to unionize comes after an incident in February in which a homeless person allegedly assaulted a store employee, leading to the firing of three employees involved, and sparking concerns about safety and job security among the workers, as the outlet reported. Furthermore, the store had experienced multiple run-ins with homeless people, which eventually led to its management closing the lobby and making the location take-out only in the summer of last year.

In response to the unionization, Starbucks spokesman Andrew Trull emphasized that workers' safety was of "the utmost importance" to the company. He also highlighted the company's efforts to improve working conditions, including raising wages, expanding tipping options for customers paying with credit cards, and increasing sick time, as stated in a separate statement.

This move by the San Jose Starbucks follows another Bay Area location in Sunnyvale, where employees also struggled with understaffing and inadequate wages, and felt exploited by the company, as reported by San Jose Spotlight earlier this month. Workers at the Sunnyvale store signed a letter to former CEO Howard Schultz stating their intentions to unionize with Starbucks Workers United. The National Labor Relations Board has already issued over 70 official complaints against Starbucks, as the outlet mentioned.

The San Jose and Sunnyvale incidents seem to represent a growing trend of discontent among Starbucks employees. With the San Jose store being the 315th Starbucks outlet nationwide and the 24th in California to successfully organize as part of the Workers United movement, which began in fall 2021, attention is being drawn to the need for change and the company's business practices. In fact, the first unionized Starbucks stores in California were located in Santa Cruz, having voted in favor of organizing just a year ago, as disclosed by the San Jose Business Journal.

To date, no unionized Starbucks store has reached a contract agreement with the company, with Workers United attributing this to bad faith negotiating on Starbucks' part. Furthermore, the company has been accused of firing over 100 employees for their organizing efforts and having more than 1,200 separate labor law violations as filed by the National Labor Relations Board as of January, as the union claimed.

Starbucks founder and former CEO, Howard Schultz, faced criticism during a congressional hearing in March for the company's aggressive and allegedly illegal anti-union response to worker organizing efforts. Schultz defended the company, maintaining that Starbucks had always been a model employer. The company has encouraged workers to vote in unionization elections, recognizing the results, and has stated that it intends to negotiate contracts with unionized employees.