clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Seattle Now Has Its First Unionized Starbucks Location

The first unionization win in the company’s hometown is a symbolically important victory for Starbucks Workers United

Three people stand for a photo in front of a white board.
Starbucks workers Sydney Durkin, left, Rachel Ybarra, middle, and Sarah Pappin, right, are among the Starbucks employees fighting to unionize their locations in Seattle.
Courtesy of Starbucks Workers United

Workers at Seattle’s Broadway and Denny Starbucks location unanimously voted to unionize Tuesday, making the store the first unionized location in the company’s hometown, a symbolically important win for Starbucks Workers United, the organization helping locations unionize across the country. The Capitol Hill store is the first company-owned location in Seattle and the seventh in the country to unionize.

Out of 13 eligible voters in a National Labor Relations Board vote held Tuesday, nine voted in favor of unionization, while three did not turn in signed ballots. One was challenged by Starbucks’ corporate counsel. The nine votes were enough to achieve the simple majority needed for the workers to win the election.

Partners (what Starbucks calls its employees) at the Broadway and Denny location initially announced plans to unionize last year in solidarity with workers at a Starbucks location in Buffalo, New York, which became the company’s first unionized corporate location in December after a highly publicized months-long battle, which sparked a wave of unionization efforts at locations across the country.

“There’s a right side of history and a wrong side of history, and right now, Starbucks is on the wrong side of history,” said Sydney Durkin, a shift lead at the Broadway and Denny location, in a press conference Tuesday. Durkin, who’s worked at the company for six years, said the successful unionization efforts at Starbucks can serve as a blueprint for other food service workers seeking to unionize.

Now that the store is unionized, the workers will negotiate with the company for a contract. Durkin says workers plan to demand better health care benefits and to allow credit card tipping, something that’s not currently an option at corporate-owned Starbucks locations. They are also likely to demand higher pay.

Starbucks has consistently opposed unionization. “We will respect the process and will bargain in good faith… We hope that the union does the same,” a company spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday.

Durkin, and coworker Rachel Ybarra, a barista who’s worked at Starbucks for almost two years, said they faced less pushback from corporate for their unionization efforts when compared to the aggressive anti-union tactics used at some other locations, including those in Buffalo. They believe they were protected due to their proximity to the company’s corporate headquarters, less than a 10 minute drive away in SODO.

“We had planned for ways to protect ourselves and our teams, and coached others on how to protect themselves,” Ybarra said. “But none of the blatant union busting lasted much longer than a month.”

As of March 22, 156 stores across 27 states have filed union elections with the Starbucks Workers United movement. Five Starbucks stores in Buffalo and one in Mesa, Arizona, voted yes to unionization, while one voted no. There are unionization efforts at six other Starbucks locations in the Seattle area, including Capitol Hill’s Starbucks Reserve Roastery, and five of them have filed petitions with the National Labor Relations board.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Eater Seattle newsletter

The freshest news from the local food world