Jacob Fullerton, Starbucks store supervisor in Everett. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Jacob Fullerton, Starbucks store supervisor in Everett. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Workers at an Everett Starbucks vote to unionize

The store is the first Starbucks to unionize in Snohomish County amid a nationwide movement.

EVERETT — Baristas at an Everett Starbucks voted 13-1 to form a union on Wednesday, joining more than a hundred Starbucks stores that have unionized across the country since December.

Employees at the store at Broadway and 37th Street voted to join the Workers United labor union. Union representation gives the workers the right to bargain with the Seattle-based coffee chain over pay and benefits.

Jacob Fullerton, a shift supervisor at the Everett cafe, said he and his colleagues were expecting victory. Several gathered in the store’s lobby with a laptop to watch the vote count via livestream.

Since the start, Fullerton said, the union effort has “been about workers having an actual say in their working conditions and compensation.”

When employees filed the petition for a union election in late January, 29 were eligible to vote. Fullerton said some have since left the store or did not cast ballots.

So far, the Everett store is one of two in Snohomish County that have moved to unionize. The other is in Marysville at 27th Avenue and 172nd Street NE. The three-week election began on Tuesday and the result will be announced on June 21.

The union drive kicked off late last summer at Starbucks stores in Buffalo, New York. Since then, workers at 286 stores have filed for union elections across more than 30 states, according to Law360’s Starbucks union tracker.

As of Wednesday, 104 stores had successfully unionized — a fraction of the roughly 9,000 company-run Starbucks cafes in the U.S. Meanwhile, workers from at least 10 stores have rejected a union.

Starbucks has long opposed unionization. “From the beginning, we’ve been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us, and that conviction has not changed,” a Starbucks spokesperson said in an emailed statement in April.

Now workers at the Everett Starbucks face the difficult task of negotiating a first contract. It’s a process that often takes a year or more, a labor expert told The Associated Press last week. Just three unionized stores — in Buffalo, New York, and Mesa, Arizona — have started bargaining.

Fullerton said the Everett store’s employees are optimistic.

“Back when we went public in January, we were one of 35 stores,” he said. “Now we are at 100 stores. It’s gaining more momentum.”

In a contract, Fullerton said, workers would like to see higher wages to keep up with inflation and changes to the vacation policy. He said hourly workers are unable to accrue vacation until after one year of employment, the standard in many retail jobs.

In an email Wednesday, a Starbucks spokesperson said “the company will respect the process and will bargain in good faith guided by our principles. We hope that the union does the same.”

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told investors on a May 3 earnings call that a union contract “would not even come close” to what Starbucks offers, according to a transcript of the call.

Amid the union push, Starbucks announced pay raises, expanded training, credit card tipping and technology improvements. The increased pay and benefits would apply to 240,000 workers across 8,800 stores — except at stores that had unionized, Schultz said during the call.

Schultz argued that federal labor law prohibits the company from extending those benefits to unionized stores. But labor experts have stated the tactic is meant to discourage unionization, and the company could offer the benefits as part of bargaining, AP reported.

In Everett, Starbucks customers have shown support for unionization, Fullerton said.

“Tips in general have gone up,” he said.

The company, he said, has been less than supportive. He said Starbucks “tried to make it look like we were the bad guys for wanting to unionize our store.”

According to AP, the National Labor Relations Board has filed 56 complaints against Starbucks for labor law violations, including firing workers for supporting unionization. Meanwhile, Starbucks filed two complaints against the Workers United union for alleged harassment and intimidation of workers.

Fullerton said the move to unionize has been worker-led.

“It was 100% self motivated to go out and do it,” he said. “Otherwise it wouldn’t have happened.”

Jacqueline Allison: 425-339-3434; jacqueline.allison@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @jacq_allison.

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