Graham Kilmer

Oak Creek Starbucks Union Wins Election

Oak Creek becomes first Starbucks in Wisconsin to successfully unionize.

By - Apr 28th, 2022 08:12 am
Starbucks. Pixabay License Free for commercial use No attribution required

Starbucks. (Pixabay License).

Workers at a Starbucks in Oak Creek have become the latest location in a nationwide unionization wave to successfully organize their workplace. They announced Wednesday that they won a unionization election.

In February, workers at the 8880 S. Howell Ave. Starbucks sent a letter to the CEO Kevin Johnson requesting recognition of their union, which they organized with the support of the national Starbucks Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International International Union (SEIU).

The workers won an election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Wednesday, winning 15 to eight, according to a statement from the union. In February, Union representatives told Urban Milwaukee the workplace had approximately 30 employees. With the election victory, the SWU is now the official bargaining representative for workers and, unless Starbucks appeals the election result, can begin negotiating a contract on behalf of the employees.

This election outcome makes these workers the first Starbucks employees in Wisconsin to successfully unionize. The union says that more than 200 Starbucks locations around the country have filed for elections.

“We are so proud to be the first union Starbucks in Wisconsin and hope even more stores will follow in our footsteps!” said Hannah Fogarty, a union organizer at the Oak Creek Starbucks, in the union’s statement announcing the victory Wednesday.

“Working with them on this national movement has been exciting and we have no doubt that they will help us negotiate a contract that reflects our values!” Fogarty said.

Another worker, Sydney LeBarron-Fahl also said she hopes the win in Oak Creek will inspire other stores in Wisconsin to unionize. LeBarron-Fahl spoke to Urban Milwaukee in February shortly after the union requested recognition, and explained that even after the first Starbucks won a union in Buffalo, the workplace didn’t become a hotbed of organizing overnight. It took confidence for employees to begin sticking their necks out and discussing unionization.

Ultimately, the employees in Oak Creek organized in what they said was an effort to rebalance the power in the workplace between the workers and the company. “It’s a one-way relationship right now,” LeBarron-Fahl said. “They have all the power to make decisions.”

In their original letter to the CEO, the workers said the company’s leadership has a “complete lack of respect” for its employees. “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,” they said.

Since the union drive in Oak Creek was announced, employees at several other Starbucks locations around the state have called for union elections, including cafes in Plover, Madison and the Fox Valley.

Coffee shops and the service industry have been a new source of union organizing in the Milwaukee area. In March, Workers at Colectivo Coffee finally succeeded in unionizing despite opposition from the company’s owners for more than two years. More recently, workers at venues operated by the Pabst Theater Group announced they were unionizing with the support of the Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers Organization (MASH).

A major difference between the organizing at Starbucks and the drives at Colectivo and the Pabst Theater Group is the general tactic employed by organizers. Where Colectivo and Pabst Theater Group workers are organizing a bargaining unit across multiple locations, Starbucks locations are being organized one shop at a time. As such, each individual Starbucks will negotiate a labor contract that only covers that store.

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