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Michigan Starbucks Workers Look to Unionize

A smattering of Starbucks locations across the country are lobbying for unionization to enable employees with further opportunity to provide feedback and perspective to the company on wages, benefits and working conditions.

Workers at Starbucks locations in Grand Rapids, Flint, Clinton Township, Lansing, Mount Pleasant and other locations voted to join Starbucks Workers United, part of Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union. Baristas have cited understaffing, the strain of mobile orders and customer-induced traumatic experiences as reasons behind the push to unionize.

“We are listening and learning from the partners in these stores as we always do across the country,” said a Starbucks spokesperson. “From the beginning, we’ve been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us, and that conviction has not changed.”

Despite that stance, the spokesperson noted that the company respects the legal right of employees to organize.

“We will bargain in good faith with the stores that vote to be represented by the union. Starbucks’ success — past, present and future — is built on how we partner together, always with our mission and values at our core.”

The company acknowledged employees’ frustration on “We know that recently we haven’t lived up to what you should expect from Starbucks.”

On the website, the company discusses how the pandemic and company-induced factors such as staffing, security and operational issues have taken away from the employee experience.

“We believe that you deserve better and that we have a responsibility to do right by you,” the website states. While the company acknowledged partners’ need to vocalize their frustrations, Starbucks continues to emphasize working side by side as opposed to “through a third party across a negotiating table.”

A Starbucks spokesperson said, “As (Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz) recently shared in a letter to our partners, ‘We will become the best version of Starbucks by co-creating our future directly as partners. And we will strengthen the Starbucks community by upholding each other’s dreams, upholding the standards and rituals of the community, celebrating partner individuality and voice, and upholding behaviors of mutual respect and dignity.”

With nearly 10,000 company-owned stores in the United States, Starbucks provides a slew of benefits for employees. These include health insurance, Bean Stock, retirement savings, paid time off, parental leave, fertility benefits, transgender health benefits and 100% tuition coverage through the Starbucks College Achievement Program.