Cheyenne Baristas Vote ‘YES’ to 1st Starbucks Union in Wyoming
Of the over 6,500 Starbucks locations in the United States, only 336 locations are Unionized, reports UnionElections.org. As of yesterday, July 31, that number has grown to 337. Cheyenne's Central Avenue Starbucks branch has voted 'yes' in a successful bid for unionizing, becoming the first unionized Starbucks in Wyoming.
Cheyenne Central Starbucks Successfully Brews Up Union Vote
Joining the ranks of Starbucks Workers United is no easy task. According to the formal press release from SBU, "Starbucks has launched a ruthless union-busting campaign that includes threatening workers' access to benefits, firing over 230 union leaders across the country, and shuttering union stores. The NLRB has issued over 100 official Complaints against the Company, encompassing over 1,900 violations of federal labor law." The union-busting practices of Starbucks have continued to make headlines, culminating in a Senate Committee Hearing in March of 2023.
In the press release, employees of the Central Avenue location cited a fall in company values as a significant force behind the unionizing vote, saying, "[the] company has fallen from its original values; it will be good to implement change as workers and bring those values back."
Baristas on Uncommon Grounds: What It Takes to Union a Starbucks
The process of unionizing is a lengthy one. According to the U.S. Department of Labor's website, worker.gov, the following requirements must be fulfilled for the formation of a union:
"To start the process, you must file an election petition with your local NLRB office. Along with the petition, you will need to show that at least 30% of the employees support your election petition, which is usually done with authorization cards or a petition signed by your co-workers."
The votes are then tallied by an official representing the National Labor Relations Act (NLRB) conducts secret-ballot elections to ensure anonymity. A successful results in the employees being represented by a union.
Maddie Oates, a shift supervisor at the Central Avenue location, explained to KGAB that the location has been preparing for the vote as early as March. The process lay heavy on the store, with Oates describing tension rising at the location - but, she assured KGAB, there was little pushback from corporate. "There were some tense moments in the store but nothing from corporate... I feel like they knew how to come forward and talk with us about it. There were some 'well if you guys do this, you won't have this support from us,' but nothing that scared me."
Oates added that her reasoning for unionizing was simple:
"I want to make sure that my partners are taken care of that. They're heard that. The work they put into the store also matters, and we want to also be taken care of."
After a careful tallying of the vote, Oates and her fellow baristas were relieved to hear the measure passed in an 8-5 vote.
Cheyenne's Central Avenue Starbucks Employees React to the Vote
Representatives from the Cheyenne Central Avenue location spoke with KGAB news regarding the move to unionizing with excitement and relief.
"I feel pretty good. We were very confident, um, of the outcome for today. We've been working for a very long time for this, and all of our hard work is finally paid off." said shift supervisor Christina Frakes.
"I'm really excited for this because I know that there's going to be a lot of change after this. We've been fighting for a really, really long time, and we just want to see some equality and some fair treatment between everyone, and we just want everyone to feel like they belong and have a place that they know that they can be safe at when they work." added fellow shift supervisor Evita Rojas.
Unions in the Equality State
Tamsin Johnson of Wyoming's American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) branch weighed in on the vote with optimism.
"For years, the power structure in Wyoming has fought to kill unions. This union today is an example that unions are on the comeback in Wyoming, and AFLCIO is here to stand with the workers at Starbucks and all the other many, many, many unions that we have in the state of Wyoming to make sure those workers are protected that they have safety on the job that they're compensated appropriately, and they can retire with dignity."
Unions highlight a significant political battleground in a Right-to-Work state like Wyoming, wherein "no individual can be forced as a condition of employment to join or pay dues or fees to a labor union." From small townships to the national arena, unions have continued to square off against measures like the National Right-to-Work Act introduced to Congress this year. Supporters of unions identify such legislation as anti-union measures meant to curb the collective bargaining power of unions. Conversely, proponents of such measures say they protect workers' freedom of choice.
In the Equality State, unions are a rarity. The U.S. Bureau of Labor reports that in 2022, Wyoming averaged only 5.6 percent of the workforce are union members, and unions represent 7.3 percent of Wyoming workers.