The Starbucks on Shattuck Avenue in Downtown Berkeley has voted to unionize.
The storefront joined a nationwide effort by Starbucks workers to unionize, according to Susie Miller, an organizing partner at the Shattuck location.
Miller alleged the Shattuck location has been experiencing a series of problems and frustrations. Thus, she said, they decided to join other locations throughout California and the United States by unionizing.
The Shattuck location had been discussing unionization for a few months, Miller added. According to the Starbucks Workers United website, there are now more than 200 company stores that have unionized.
“We saw that we had a lot in common with these other stores,” Miller said. “A lot of the same struggles of not having a voice in our workplace, of not getting the support from Starbucks, the benefits from Starbucks or the pay, frankly, that we needed.”
As the conversation about unionizing began to pick up at the Shattuck location, one major concern was the overwhelming demand of customers, according to Miller. Miller noted that with the closure of Oxford Street’s location, the Shattuck location is now the only Starbucks location in Berkeley, meeting the caffeine demand of UC Berkeley, Berkeley High School and the greater Berkeley community.
Most of the Oxford Street staff was absorbed into Shattuck’s, Miller said, which reduced staff members’ hours. With pay being low and rent high, according to Miller, partners at the location were not able to work enough to cover basic living expenses.
“All of that stuff was really motivators for us to look around,” Miller said. “They are not going to listen to our concerns just by us saying them. We need to do something more if we want things to actually change.’”
Miller said these issues, along with their location having the challenges of being an older building, drove her and her partners to begin unionizing in May. According to Miller, the workers signed cards in support of unionization.
However, Starbucks’ management decided to not recognize the union at that point, Miller said, leading to an election by the National Labor Board.
Starbucks has not responded to a request for comment as of press time.
The vote passed with a 12-6 majority, allowing for the formation of the union, according to Miller.
“Everybody was excited about the prospects of unionizing … and really being involved in the process that affects our day-to-day lives so, so much,” Miller said.
Miller said personally, she hopes their unionization will inspire other locations across the country to unionize. Miller recalled growing up in a family with a close connection to unions and seeing the benefits a union could give to its workers.
As the national movement grows, according to the Starbucks Workers United website, the organizers hope to improve the company and better the reality of working for partners.
“Baristas and supervisors are the lifeblood of a Starbucks coffee shop,” Miller said. “This is an opportunity for us to take that role and turn it into material tangible benefits and to have some kind of a say in how that happens.”