COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Starbucks is a Seattle-based company, but right now, all eyes are the Olympic City. Two Colorado Springs Starbucks stores, the Brookside and Nevada and Academy and Flintridge locations, filed with the National Labor Relations Board to begin the process to unionize, store organizing committees, elected officials and candidates announced on Monday, March 14th.
The "Starbucks Workers United" movement that has already taken place in other parts of the country. Workers for the Seattle based coffee chain have already won union recognition and collective bargaining rights in cities in New York and Arizona, and the application process to unionize has also begun in over 100 other locations
throughout the U.S., including Ohio, Illinois, and Minnesota.
The Starbucks Partners United Union, an affiliate of Workers United, seeks to increase
communication and representation between local employees, called partners, and Starbucks
corporate -- something Bradley Kurtz, a barista at the Flintridge location and lead organizer with the organizing committee there, says is lacking.
“[Starbucks] always used to prioritize employees over profit, and in recent years as we’ve had some change in leadership, the company has really shifted away from that model and has focused on profit over partners," says Kurtz. "They say they’re still listening to us, but even tenured employees say that the company they once started with is not the company we have today.”
Worker's United agrees. According to a press release, Workers United International Vice President Kathy Hanshew says: "Starbucks calls it’s employees “partners”, but it is abundantly clear that this so-called partnership is one of convenience for the company, that leaves many employee concerns unheard. It is time for Starbucks to do the right thing, acknowledge the voice of their partners, and allow their workers to unionize without interference."
KRDO reached out to Starbucks corporate office for a response, and were directed to a letter to employees from North American president Rossann Williams. That letter, in part, states that "the vote outcomes will not change our shared purpose or how we will show up for each other ... We will keep listening, we will keep connecting and we will keep being in service of one another because that's what we've always done and what it means to be partner."
Kurtz says there are three key things Colorado Springs Starbucks employees, at the respective locations, are looking for by unionizing.
"We'd like consistent pay structure, especially for tenured employees." Kurtz explains. "We want an increase in hours, as well as additional options for tipping.”
On behalf of the Starbucks Partners United Union, Kurtz says while nationwide the minimum wage at Starbucks is $15.00 per hour, some of his colleagues make closer to $13.00 an hour. He says the new union wants to make sure everyone meets that $15.00 per hour pay range, and have it vary from there - depending on length of time and experience with Starbucks. Additionally, Kurtz says there was an internal announcement recently that positions would be cut to part time. Starbucks union workers seek to work the full (or part) time amount of hours agreed upon when hired. He claims there are employees at the two respective Colorado Springs locations who have picked up second jobs, including at other Starbucks locations across town. Lastly, the union seeks the ability to receive tips, their only extra income as Starbucks employees within the company, through credit card transactions. Currently, customers can tip through the Starbucks app or with cash.
Kurtz tells KRDO he knew changes needed to be made in order for employees to feel respected and appreciated by its employer following Starbucks' announcement of having its most profitable year-to-date, and a $14 million bonus was given to the coffee company's CEO. He says while he, and other respective store employees, are looking to make changes - it is not because they dislike working for Starbucks, but because the love it and want to stay.
"It’s a company that we still believe in and we know that going forward, it can continue to be at the forefront of change and innovation for the industry," says Kurtz.
Kurtz says changes made would show that Starbucks is listening to its partners - what the company calls its employees.
"As much as we may need an increase in pay or an increase in hours or labor, that's only something corporate can do, and it's what we're looking to achieve."
Both stores have the support of more than 70% of staff at each store to pursue unionizing.