Low wages, erratic scheduling, unsanitary conditions and heavy workloads are the chief complaints driving workers at a Starbucks in Los Angeles to unionize.
Employees filed a petition Friday with the National Labor Relations Board to join Starbucks Workers United.
“We expect to hear back from the labor board in six weeks,” said Andrew Gillespie, a shift supervisor at the store, at 5757 Wilshire Blvd. near the La Brea Tar Pits. “Then we’ll hold our election and hopefully win our union.”
The employees are joining a nationwide movement that has seen more than 9,000 baristas organizing for better working conditions, fair wages and consistent schedules.
Starbucks Workers United has gained considerable traction in recent years, unionizing more than 360 Starbucks stores in 41 states and Washington, D.C. since December 2021.
Locally, that includes three LA locations and two in Anaheim, with additional stores in Long Beach, Lakewood, Huntington Beach, La Quinta, Barstow, Encinitas and San Diego.
Gillespie, 26, who has worked at the Wilshire Boulevard store for a year and a half, said management has been “unsupportive” in its scheduling.
“They’re focused on trying to cut labor costs wherever possible,” he said. “Business is always heavy in the morning, but it’s busy in the afternoon, too and employees will end up doing the work of two, three or even four people.”
Gillespie said the store has also had an ongoing problem with ants, cockroaches and mosquitoes.
“They come from the Miracle Mile drainage system,” he said. “I’ve tried to get them to bring in an exterminator, but they just give us DIY tips on how to address it ourselves.”
In a statement issued Monday, Nov. 20, Starbucks said it’s encouraged by the progress it’s seen toward first contracts at stores where union representatives have approached bargaining with “professionalism and an actual interest in discussing partner priorities with our bargaining committees.”
“Wherever we can quickly and broadly improve partner benefits and perks, our history demonstrates we have,” the company said.
Starbucks Workers United said the coffee chain has launched a “ruthless union-busting campaign.”
“We demand change in our workplace and do not deserve retaliation for trying to speak up,” said Hailie Muro, a barista at the LA location.
Administrative judges have issued 37 decisions finding Starbucks committed more than 300 federal labor law violations, the union said, including unlawful firings, refusing to bargain and giving nonunion workers higher wages and better benefits than employees who have sought to unionize.
A decision last month by Judge Mara-Louise Anzalone marked the first nationwide ruling against the coffee giant amid its resistance to a unionization wave that began two years ago.
Anzalone noted that Starbucks has rolled out new wage rates and expanded benefits to employees, but only to its “entire hourly, nonunion workforce.” She ordered the company to compensate thousands of unionized workers for the wages and benefits they were unlawfully denied.
Starbucks said it recently announced annual pay raises of 3-5% for “all eligible U.S. hourly retail partners, differentiated for tenure — further enhancing our current average U.S. hourly partner pay of $17.50 per hour.”
Gillespie said workers at the LA store are seeking a base wage of $20 an hour.
Starbucks said it has initiated scheduling improvements that make it easier for employees to get the hours they want. And it has expanded career mobility for employees through a credential and certification program that pays 100% tuition reimbursement for a four-year bachelor’s degree through the Starbucks College Achievement Program.
“We recognize that a subset of partners feel differently, and we respect our partners’ right to organize, freely associate, engage in lawful union activities and bargain collectively without fear of reprisal or retaliation,” the company said.