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Workers at the Seattle Starbucks Reserve Roastery Join Nationwide Unionization Push

The location is the fifth in the Seattle area and the 81st in the country with unionization plans

There women stand behind a podium holding signs that read “Stand with Starbucks Workers, Union Strong.”
Sarah Pappin, a shift supervisor at a Seattle Starbucks location with plans to unionize, speaks at a rally at Cal Anderson Park on January 25.
JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images

Workers at Seattle’s flagship Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Capitol Hill filed for a union election today, according to Starbucks Workers United. It is the 81st store in the country, and the fifth in the Seattle area, that has plans to unionize, joining a wave of Starbucks workers across the country seeking higher wages and better benefits.

As the first Starbucks Reserve Roastery — tourist attractions that offer tours and food and drinks not available at regular Starbucks stores, of which there are six worldwide — a successful unionization vote would be a symbolically important win for Starbucks Workers United.

“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,” said Melissa Slabaugh, a partner at the Reserve Roastery, in a news release.

After a Starbucks store in Buffalo, New York became the company’s first unionized location in December following a highly publicized months-long battle, locations across the country have attempted to follow suit. The company has responded with an aggressive anti-union campaign, including anti-union meetings branded as “listening sessions” that workers were mandated to attend individually with management and a website, We are One Starbucks, which encourages to vote against unionization.

On February, 8, the Seattle City Council passed a resolution from Councilmember Kshama Sawant expressing solidarity with Starbucks workers organizing labor unions, though the resolution didn’t promise any action. It passed 6-0, with Councilmember Lisa Herbold absent and Councilmembers Sara Nelson and Alex Pedersen not voting.

Workers at Starbucks locations in Capitol Hill, on Westlake Avenue, and at Fifth Avenue and Pike Place in Seattle and at Broadway and 37th Street in Everett are already seeking unionization.