Seattle’s flagship Starbucks location throws weight behind nationwide unionization push

Feb 14, 2022, 1:43 PM
Starbucks Reserve Roastery (Flickr)

Seattle’s flagship Starbucks location announced Monday that it has filed for union elections through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Located at 1124 Pike Street under the moniker Seattle Reserve Roastery, the location is one of three Starbucks flagship locations in the United States, and one of six globally.

“I have worked for Starbucks for almost nine years, and four of those have been at the Seattle Roastery. Over the years, I have slowly seen the partner experience take a backseat to the customer experience. Our health and safety have been put into jeopardy in a myriad of ways, and we’re just burnt out,” wrote Melissa Slabaugh, an employee at the Seattle Reserve Roastery, in a news release.

To date, 81 Starbucks locations in 24 states have filed for union elections. Seattle Reserve Roastery joins three other locations in the city that have similarly organized. As of Feb. 12, the first locations to do so locally — located on Broadway and Denny — have not scheduled elections. Seattle Reserve Roastery is the second flagship to file through the NLRB.

National Starbucks unionization echoes in Seattle City Hall as ‘misinformation’ accusations fly

Union elections at 1124 Pike Street would be a symbolic victory for SB Workers United — the union representing nationwide organized labor efforts with the coffee company; that location is known to be frequented by former chairman and CEO Howard Schultz, according to a spokesperson with SB Workers United.

Tension between the company and SB Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, flared last week when seven employees were terminated at a Memphis location. The union contends that Starbucks fired the employees as known organizers; a company spokesperson told the Associated Press the decision was made over company policy violations.

Following scrutiny after that decision, Starbucks released a new company webpage that clarifies its relationship to third-party union representation and advocates for partners to vote “no” in upcoming NLRB elections. It interprets the collective bargaining process and notes that representation comes with union dues. It adds that some partners already qualify for benefits such as tuition assistance and health insurance.

“It is a bargaining process, so nothing is guaranteed,” the website reads. “In the final contract, the union may not negotiate for some things you are hoping for, and some things you value now might go away.”

Organizing members with the Broadway and Denny Starbucks locations told MyNorthwest in January that the company engaged in stalling and intimidation tactics to avoid union elections, citing private meetings with individual employees among location and district managers.

“We urge you to sign the Fair Election Principles brought forth by our fellow baristas across the nation, and come to the bargaining table with us in good faith,” wrote members of the organizing committee in their letter to CEO Kevin Johnson. “We look forward to an even stronger working relationship in the near future.”

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Seattle’s flagship Starbucks location throws weight behind nationwide unionization push