Graham Kilmer

Oak Creek Starbucks Workers Unionizing

A 'complete lack of respect for us as human beings,' letter from workers to CEO charges.

By - Feb 12th, 2022 02:11 pm
Starbucks. Pixabay License Free for commercial use No attribution required

Starbucks. (Pixabay License).

Last year, workers at a Starbucks in Buffalo, New York successfully organized a union. Now a Starbucks in the Milwaukee area is following suit.

Friday morning, workers at the Starbucks store at 8880 S. Howell Ave. sent a letter to CEO Kevin Johnson and local management demanding recognition of their union. The workers are organizing with Starbucks Workers United, an affiliate of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the union that began in Buffalo and is currently organizing shops around the country.

The location in Oak Creek has about 30 workers, Urban Milwaukee was told by the union, and a significant majority have signed authorization cards, which give a union permission to advocate on behalf of the signee. The letter to Johnson also included the signatures of 16 workers willing to publicly represent the unionization campaign.

One of those signatories, Sydney LeBarron-Fahl, told Urban Milwaukee that the workers are organizing to build the power necessary to negotiate with the corporate behemoth that is Starbucks.

“It’s a one-way relationship right now,” she said. “They have all the power to make decisions.”

In their letter to Johnson the workers wrote: “It once again comes back to the complete lack of respect that you, Kevin, have for us as ‘partners’ and as human beings. The wealth you possess comes directly from the pockets of partners who work day in and day out enriching you under increasingly challenging conditions. It seems the lack of respect goes both ways, you can earn ours by willingly acknowledging our union, which the overwhelming majority of us are in support of.”

LeBarron-Fahl told Urban Milwaukee that Starbucks calls its employees “partners.” For many workers, she said, it doesn’t feel like employees are actually viewed this way by the company.

She’s been with the company since March, and loves her job. “Our customers are amazing,” she said. This is her first experience with a union or labor organizing, she added. “It’s honestly really, really exciting.”

Pam Fendt, president of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council AFL-CIO, also released a statement with the workers, saying, “My message to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson is this: Keep your union busting and anti-worker intimidation out of Wisconsin. In our state, we have each other’s backs, we are union proud, and we are going to be fighting alongside our union siblings at Starbucks in Oak Creek until justice is won, and they have secured their first union contract.”

Cafes and coffee shops have become a percolating source of labor organization in Milwaukee. Workers at Colectivo Coffee went public with a union campaign in August 2020. They won their election in August, but they’re still in a bitter standoff with owners that refuse to accept that election result. Owners Lincoln Fowler, Ward Fowler and Paul Miller are on their second appeal to the National Labor Relations Review Board over the election results.

When the Starbucks workers in Buffalo won their union, at first, no one at the Starbucks in Oak Creek really spoke about it. LeBarron-Fahl said she and her co-workers have great relationships. Despite that, no one wanted to be the first to stick their neck out and start talking about unions. That’s all changed. 

“I feel like I have a stronger bond with my co-workers,” she said.

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Categories: Business, Food & Drink

One thought on “Oak Creek Starbucks Workers Unionizing”

  1. NieWiederKrieg says:

    The sad thing about America is that both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are anti-labor union. Both of them are owned by Wall Street, Goldman Sachs, hedge fund managers, and billionaires.

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