Here’s What You Need to Know About the Starbucks Union

Hayley Palmore, a grad student in the School of Social Work and a shift supervisor at Amos Hall, said she used to love working for Starbucks, but recent changes have made it difficult for her to work for the store.

That’s why she’s choosing to unionize. 

“’I’ve been working for Starbucks since like 2017, and I’ve just seen how all of the changes that have been made with the company have negatively impacted us as partners,” Palmore said. “I’ve seen how difficult it’s been to work for Starbucks. The working conditions have made it really hard to love the job, like I honestly used to really like it.”

The Amos Hall and Craig St. Starbucks locations formally petitioned to unionize on March 4. They are attempting to become the second location in Pittsburgh, and in the state, to unionize.

In a letter to Starbucks CEO, Kevin Johnson, workers at the locations noted issues they had with the company and were petitioning to unionize. The letter was signed by almost 60 employees — many of whom were students. 

The letter detailed their complaints about working conditions destroying their work ethic, writing that Starbucks workers have not been feeling valued and had hours and benefits taken away

“We strongly feel as though corporate is not listening to us: they are cutting hours, failing to deal with concerns regarding upper management, and leaving us incredibly understaffed while we are facing unparalleled customer wait times,” the letter said.

According to The Pitt News, Sam Knapp, a shift supervisor at the Amos Hall Starbucks, saw that his employees’ wellness was deteriorating, so he decided to take action and sent a message to Workers United.

“There were just too many moments where I was definitely very fed up with Starbucks as a company and I had been seeing other stories and articles about other locations unionizing, and I just realized that it was time for us to do the same,” Knapp said. 

“Partners who were considered to be full time were getting their hours cut from  40-to-35 to in the 20s. And that’s very stressful,” Palmore said.

Partners at both the Amos Hall and Craig Street locations are attempting to join Workers United, which represents 80,000 members in North America in the hospitality, manufacturing, apparel and textile industries. Workers United is an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union.

Many locations nationwide have unionized against the company, including stores in St. Paul, New York City, and even Pittsburgh. According to @SBWorkersUnited on twitter, Starbucks has run anti-union campaigns and has even gone to close stores attempting to unionize and fired a group of union partners called the “Mephesis Seven.”

“I started researching all that was happening with the first stores in Buffalo, they were unionizing and I really learned how important it is to use your voice,” Palmore said. 

Workers at Amos Hall will decide if they want to unionize on May 6. Ballots were sent to eligible employees on Apr. 21 and will be collected and tallied on May 6. 

According to Loribel Encarnacion, politics and philosophy ‘24, an employee at Starbucks said showing your support to the employees when you order is important. While Encarnacion works at the Starbucks on Forbes and Atwood, she sometimes is asked to work at the Amos Hall location.

“Even if people aren’t involved, I think they should try to support workers in any way possible to better support the system,” Encarnacion said. “The more voices who speak about these problems, the more helpful it becomes to those who are suffering the after effects of the pandemic.”

It’s important to note the unions are being formed by younger workers and predominantly women. More than 70% of Starbucks employees are women and 48.2% BIPOC.

Many labor experts attribute this growing number of female union workers to the growing rate of women in leadership roles in social justice movements. 

“Who are the major grass-roots organizers right now? They’re women, nonbinary people, queer women, and people of color, particularly women of color, if you look at the social movements spectrum,” Eileen Boris, a professor studying feminism and labor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, told the Washington Post. 

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