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Two Major Downtown Seattle Starbucks Locations File Unionization Petitions

The stores at Seattle Center and 3rd Avenue and Madison Street are the latest to join a wave of unionization efforts around the state

Starbucks Union Hearing
Starbucks Workers United has announced that three new Washington Starbucks locations have petitioned to unionize
Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Employees at two Seattle Starbucks locations — 3rd Avenue and Madison Street and the location inside Seattle Center — have filed petitions with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to unionize, according to a press release from Starbucks Workers United issued Friday, August 4.

This comes on the heels of a 6-3 vote in favor of unionization at the Redmond Retail store, which became the 22nd Starbucks location to officially unionize on July 21, and a ruling by the NLRB in early June, which found that the company had violated the law in closing unionized stores, firing union-affiliated employees, and forcing an employee to get their shift covered while they testified at an NLRB hearing. The coffee goliath was also dealt a legal blow on June 13 when it agreed to settle an NLRB complaint over accusations that it had blocked local unionized workers from working choice shifts at University of Washington games.

In an open letter addressed to CEO Laxman Narasimhan, workers (also called partners) at the Seattle Center location write that “our store is unique from the standard neighborhood Starbucks,” and the “event-goers and tourists from around the city, the country, and the world” that flood Seattle Center present a singular strain on workers at that location that “could be manageable with effective planning, but management has not implemented the kinds of comprehensive solutions necessary to solve the problem.”

The letter goes on to make specific complaints about workers being pushed off their healthcare plans by being scheduled for too few hours and other workers being given more hours than they are capable of working: “We refuse to accept increasing demands without increasing compensation.”

In an emailed response to a request for comment from Eater Seattle, a Starbucks media representative wrote that “Partner work schedules...are built based on recorded partner availability and the unique operational needs of each store.”

Primrose McClure, a barista and organizer at the 3rd and Madison location, is quoted in the press release saying, “We hear that partners are ‘the heart of the Starbucks experience’- yet our health and safety is treated like an afterthought.”

Starbucks’ media representative maintains that “We work with urgency to address any reported issues that may impact the health of our partners and the experience we offer at our stores.”

Starbucks Workers United also announced, earlier today, that the Merlot & Wine Country Starbucks in Prosser had filed a petition to unionize, claiming failed efforts to work with management and through corporate channels to resolve issues like seriously ill employees being required to complete their shifts and “limited staffing during high volume traffic hours.”

Starbucks says that it respects employees’ right to organize, and “As a next step, we welcome the opportunity for partners at our Seattle Center and 3rd and Madison stores to vote in a neutral, secret ballot election conducted by the NLRB.” Regarding allegations of retaliation and union busting, the company representative writes that Starbucks will continue to “defend the company and the rights of our partners” where claims have been filed that the company believes are unfounded.