In the red state of Texas, Starbucks stores have joined a nationwide trend and organized to win representation. Many branches already filed petitions for an election that will certify their unionization with hopes it leads them toward better working conditions such as higher wages or improved benefits packages.
The employees at one Austin-based Starbucks have started voting by mail, and the results will be revealed on Friday. If they are successful in organizing this location it will make them the first official unionized workplace for Texas’ Starbucks workforce. The workers would be represented via Southwest Regional Joint Board Workers United – a branch affiliate of Service Employees International Union.
The victory at Starbucks would be big news and create a spark that will inspire others to make the same commitment with their co-workers, not just in other stores but also other establishments where workers are looking to get a seat at the table.
The first Starbucks branch to become a union in Texas was in San Antonio. Seven employees at that store formed an organizing committee and wrote to then-CEO Kevin Johnson.
After stepping down from Starbucks, Johnson handed the position back to founder Howard Schultz. The transition occurred four months after a store in New York City became unionized.
In response to the unionization of their store, Starbucks executive vice president Rossann Williams distributed a company-wide letter saying that they did not want any labor unions but would be willing to bargain in good faith with those who organized it.
“That letter was the catalyst that allowed myself and a couple of other partners to start having very real conversations on the floor with our fellow baristas and shift supervisors, talking about union organizing,” said CJ Craig, one of the seven San Antonio employees who signed their name to the pro-union letter.
However, when Craig talked to his co-workers about organizing, many didn’t understand what a union could offer or imagine how an organized workplace might look.
“A lot of those conversations really did end up being more about educating people and just kind of walking them through like; this is the process, this is what happens when you form a union, and these are the ways that it can materially improve your life and historically has,” he shared.
The organizing committee started their conversations in September 2021 and by January 2022 they had written a letter to Kevin Johnson becoming the first Texan Starbucks store that filed for unionization.
The organizing effort at Craig’s has inspired other stores in Texas to file or signal their intention for unionization. A certification vote is scheduled for June 14th, and so far ten different locations have submitted paperwork with hopes that they will become part of the union.