Oak Creek Starbucks workers bid for Wisconsin’s first union

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OAK CREEK, WI — Employees of a Starbucks in Oak Creek announced plans Friday to sue Workers United for union representation. It wouldn’t be the first attempt at a union for coffee workers in Wisconsin, but it could be a first in the state for Starbucks.

Two employees at the facility told Patch that much of the pressure to unionize was about physical safety and financial security.

“We deserve to earn enough money to have a savings account, pay our bills and fix our cars,” Hannah Fogarty, 23, told Patch.

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In one letter sent to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnsonhourly workers at the 8880 Howell Avenue site demanded voluntary union recognition, according to a press release from the Chicago and Midwest Regional Joint Board of Workers United.

The push at Oak Creek comes after numerous other Starbucks locations across the country made public their union representation intentions, according to reports. It also comes after workers at Colectivo, an artisan coffeehouse chain in the Milwaukee area, successfully voted for union representation last summer.

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“It was around September that we started hearing about what was going on in Buffalo. It’s kind of something we discussed in the store, but it seemed so out of reach,” Fogarty said, “and then suddenly all these other stores started doing it, and then it didn’t seem so impossible, and then here we are, less than a month and a half later.

Of about 30 workers at the store, the majority signed permission cards, marking the petition as a first for Starbucks stores in Wisconsin, according to Workers United CMRJB organizer Mary Floreani.

“Wisconsin has a rich and complex history in the American labor movement despite former Governor Scott Walker’s historic attack on our state’s unions,” reads the letter sent by Workers United CMRJB and hourly workers stating the petition to unionize. “We are proud to stand together 11 years later, both as partners of Starbucks and as people of Wisconsin, to stand up for what we believe in as a store and as a state.”

Fogarty said the community can support the union by coming and ordering drinks as “union yes” or “union strong.”

“We would like the support of our community,” Fogarty said. “We love our jobs. We love our regulars. We have plenty of them.”

“I think we’re coming back to ourselves, and I personally expect that to kind of… Hopefully that will spark a big change in the state. Especially in our Starbucks stores,” Fogarty said.

The fledgling union’s first demand after filing a petition with the National Labor Relations Board is to be voluntarily recognized by Starbucks.

In response to the union organizing news, a Starbucks spokesperson told Patch that a union was not needed because the company already offers industry-leading benefits, many of which were created through feedback. employees.

When petitions arise, Starbucks listens to those stores’ partners, the spokesperson said, but if a union were to materialize, they would bargain in good faith.

“We encourage our partners to make the choice that’s right for them. And if they choose to be represented by Workers United, you know, it won’t change how we present ourselves to each other or who we are,” a said the spokesperson. noted.

Employees told Patch that the campaign for a union at the Howell site accelerated as the omicron variant took hold of the country. Just after Christmas, nearly half of the store was out because employees tested positive for COVID-19 or were exposed, according to Fogarty.

“After that, Starbucks shortened its policy to a five-day isolation, which resulted in people coming to work still showing symptoms,” Fogarty said.

In response, a Starbucks spokesperson said the move to five-day isolations follows CDC guidelines, and that when there are too many cases for a store to remain open, the store is supposed to close while that workers are offered disaster compensation as well as shifts to other stores. If workers have symptoms that persist beyond five days, they can work with their store managers to extend isolation or take sick leave, the spokesperson said, adding “we don’t want whoever falls ill”.

Adam Stikel, a 17-year-old student at Oak Creek High School, is also part of the attempt to organize a union. He said that although he does not yet have bills to pay like the others, he has witnessed the difficulties that some people have had in paying only the rent.

Stikel said recently that he’s seen his own hours reduced at the store, “so other people can work even harder to pay their rent for apartments, which is really, which is honestly, to me, really very sad.”

Stikel added that the union had received support from other miners working there. And, he said, he received support from fellow students at Oak Creek High School for the union campaign.

“I think it’s important that we all have a voice, especially even if you’re still in high school, and a lot of people appreciate that,” Stikel said.

Fogarty said the minimum wage at the store was around $13 an hour — a figure dwarfed by demands for $15 an hour echoed by other protests and workers across the country in recent years.

Workers at the Starbucks site have yet to issue a specific demand for a raise, but the letter to the CEO says $12.60 an hour presents problems paying bills and saving money.

>>>Read the letter published by the CMRJB on Twitter.

In response to pay concerns, a Starbucks spokesperson pointed to several rounds of raises the company has launched over the past two years — a total investment of $1 billion that, by this summer, will bring the average salary of workers at 15-23 dollars across the country. , depending on the cost of living and the seniority of the employees.

“We want to have a voice because obviously we’ve tried many times to just talk to the company or our manager and nothing worked out,” Stikel said. “And I think this union is really going to give us decisions in our policies and like our work environment.”

The president of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council, AFL-CIO, spoke in favor of the union after Friday’s announcement in the CMRJB press release.

“My message to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson is: Keep fighting unions and fighting workers.
bullying out of Wisconsin,” Pam Fendt said in the press release. “In our state, we support each other, we are proud of the union, and we will fight alongside our union brothers and sisters at Starbucks in Oak Creek until until justice is served. , and they got their first union contract.”

Patch reached out to Oak Creek Mayor Dan Bukiewicz to comment on this story.

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