EVERETT — Starbucks workers at Broadway and 37th Street in Everett want to form a union, joining a growing wave of baristas across the country pushing to unionize.
The effort is the first at a Starbucks in Snohomish County. The Everett store filed for union election Monday — along with 15 other stores nationwide, according to a tweet from SB Workers United.
Jacob Fullerton, a supervisor at the Everett Starbucks, said about 70% of the store’s 29 employees signed cards in support of unionization, well above the 30% threshold required by the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election.
Forming a union would allow employees to bargain with management over pay, hours and working conditions.
As of this week, employees at 54 Starbucks stores in 19 states had filed for union election, NPR reported. Several Seattle stores had previously announced plans to unionize.
The movement started last fall with workers at a store in Buffalo, New York. The store formed the first Starbucks union in the nation in December, sparking a wave of similar efforts.
In their Monday letter, Everett employees informed Starbucks President and CEO Kevin Johnson of their intent to unionize.
“We, as a store, want what the majority of baristas within your company want: to meet on a level playing field with our leadership, to have a say in our workplace culture and daily operations, and not to have to contort ourselves into pretzels to satisfy the whims of a corporate entity,” the employees wrote.
Employees will vote on whether to join the SB Workers United union, which represents the Buffalo Starbucks workers.
Starbucks did not directly respond to a question from The Daily Herald about whether the company opposed the Everett store’s move to unionize. However, the Seattle-based coffee chain has opposed other stores’ unionization efforts.
“We are listening and learning from the partners in these stores as we always do across the country,” a Starbucks spokesperson said in an email. “Our position hasn’t changed: Starbucks success — past, present, and future — is built on how we partner together, always with Our Mission and Values at our core.”
In a December letter to Starbucks employees, following the Buffalo union vote, Rossann Williams, executive vice president at Starbucks, expressed the company’s opposition to unionization.
“From the beginning, we’ve been clear in our belief that we do not want a union between us as partners, and that conviction has not changed,” she wrote. “However, we have also said that we respect the legal process. This means we will bargain in good faith with the union.”
In their Monday letter, the Everett Starbucks workers wrote they face “frequent and disruptive equipment failures, an at-will instead of for-cause employment contracts, and low wages for new, established and tenured partners.”
The Everett store’s manager is “empathetic, hard-working and exemplary,” but workers cannot be sure future leadership will be the same, they wrote.
If unionization efforts succeed, Fullerton said, workers would push for higher pay, better benefits and stronger workplace safety measures.
Everett baristas have been subjected to violent situations and sexual harassment from the public, Fullerton said. He added the company has also barred workers from enforcing the state’s COVID-19 mask mandate.
Fullerton, 28, started working at the Everett Starbucks in May 2021 to pay for school. He was motivated to form a union to support both new and long-term employees.
“A lot of the workforce is 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds, they are so smart and deserve so much,” he said. “And there are also people who are older and don’t get taken care of as well as they should.”
Fullerton anticipates the Everett store’s union election will happen in four to six weeks.
He expects “interference” from the company, such as meetings and texts, to discourage union efforts. Starbucks workers at other stores across the country have reported similar tactics.
Fullerton said he is preparing baristas for what to expect in the coming weeks.
“I think it’s a very clear growing movement,” he said, “and it’s kind of bonkers that (Starbucks) is fighting so hard against this given that they’re such a progressive company.”