‘A huge win’: Park Slope Starbucks employees vote to unionize

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Workers at a Park Slope Starbucks store have voted to unionize.
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File

Starbucks employees at a Park Slope store voted overwhelmingly to unionize last week, just over a month after they announced their organizing campaign. 

The workers voted 12-2 to join up with Starbucks Workers United, which has amassed thousands of members over the last few years. 

“Winning a union means we’re closer to our end goal,” said barista Victoria Blair, in a statement. “We’re closer to a contract. We had a huge win yesterday, and with every win and every store that joins our movement, we’re closer to a contract.” 

Workers at the Park Slope store on 4th Avenue and 11th Street, along with their colleagues at 20 stores across the country, sent an open letter declaring their intention to unionize to Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan in February. 

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Workers celebrated their win outside the store. Photo courtesy of Starbucks Workers United/X

The letter stated baristas and other Starbucks employees — whom the company calls “partners” — are dealing with inconsistent schedules, short-staffing, dirty stores and broken equipment, and little support from management. 

“We ‘partners’ demand a say,” the letter reads. “We are the face of Starbucks. As employees, we deserve the same respect and dignity as the CEO. This dignity includes fair pay, clear communication with all partners, a say in the decisions that affect our day to day, better power balance, and manageable expectations.”

Shortly after the letter was sent, Blair, who works at the Park Slope store, told Brooklyn Paper that Starbucks has come “significantly more hostile.” The Park Slope location is piloting a new scheduling system, Blair said, which reduced each workers’ weekly hours and thus, their pay. Blair herself said she was regularly being scheduled at just under 20 hours per week — which meant she wasn’t eligible for benefits like health insurance. 

The vote came just days after Starbucks stores in Garden City and Westbury, on Long Island, also voted to unionize — though by narrower margins. 

“We came together as a unit and decided we want better working conditions,” said Aidan Zanutto, a partner at the Park Slope store. “Winning our union election put us one step closer to that goal. However, there’s still a lot of work left to be done. I am extremely hopeful for what’s to come because we’ve shown that we want this and we’re not going to stop working towards our goal of making Starbucks a better place to work.”

The Park Slope location is now Brooklyn’s fourth unionized Starbucks. The very first, located in Bath Beach, voted to unionize in the spring of 2022.

“We respect the rights of our partners to organize and bargain collectively, and we are eager to reach ratified agreements in 2024 for represented stores,” said Starbucks rep Rachel Wall, in a statement. “We are committed to delivering on our promise to offer a bridge to a better future to all Starbucks partners.”

In February, Starbucks and Starbucks Workers United reached what the company called an “important milestone” in an effort to create a “foundational framework” for collective bargaining, organizing, and “the resolution of some outstanding litigation.”

Once the union election is certified, the store will select a bargaining representative and send their initial bargaining demand to the company. Then, union and Starbucks representatives will choose a date for an in-person bargaining session to begin the bargaining process, which can take months, before a first contract is agreed upon and signed. 

Update 4/2/2024, 9:55 a.m.: This story has been updated with comment and additional information from Starbucks.