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Yet Another Seattle Starbucks Has Unionized

Plus, a Ballard barbecue spot closes, and more news of the week

A Starbucks storefront. Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Harry Cheadle is the editor of Eater Seattle.

The hottest coffee trend of 2023 (and 2022 and 2021) is unionization, and employees at yet another Seattle Starbucks store have voted to join Starbucks Workers United, the union that represents workers at more than 350 stores around the country. Seventeen employees (“partners” in internal Starbucks argot) at the Seattle Center store voted unanimously to unionize late last week, the union announced in a press release.

Previously, workers at this store had complained about inconsistent scheduling and poor planning when it came to meeting the demand brought on by major events near Seattle Center. “I’m excited,” Maria Hepburn, a partner at the store who helped organize the store’s union, said in the release. “It feels like a culmination of ongoing effort and a resounding affirmation from my coworkers.”

According to a tracker from More Perfect Union, a nonprofit that covers the labor movement, 12 Starbucks stores have unionized in Seattle, and nearly 25 have unionized in Washington State (two stores in the state voted against unionizing). But these unionization votes do not by themselves secure the better wages and working conditions normally sought by unionized employees — the step after unionization is to bargain a contract with management. This must be done one store at a time, and so far no store in the U.S. has secured a contract. The union blames Starbucks management, and prosecutors at the National Labor Relations Board have filed a complaint alleging management is slow-walking negotiations and not bargaining in good faith. Starbucks has previously told Eater Seattle it is prepared to bargain “in-person at the negotiating table,” which is the sticking point — the union wants its members to be able to attend these sessions virtually, but Starbucks has not agreed to that condition.

Ballard’s Bitterroot BBQ is closing

After a dozen years, Bitterroot, a barbecue and bourbon joint on Ballard Avenue, is closing its doors for good at the end of the month. As Seattle Met writes, Bitterroot predates the current crop of Seattle barbecue places, and its closure is sort of the end of a particular era. But not totally the end — Mammoth, the sandwich operation that has been run out of Bitterroot, is moving to the old Teatro Zinzanni space near Seattle Center, and “almost all of Bitterroot’s staff is coming along,” according to the Seattle Times.

The New York Times loves Seattle sushi, and Eastern Washington pasta

Didn’t we say last week it was awards season? The Gray Lady has deigned to release its list of restaurants it’s excited about, and some local names made the cut. The sole Seattle restaurant on the list was Keiji Tsukasaki’s Ltd Edition Sushi, a tiny Capitol Hill omakase counter that will now be even harder to score reservations at. It also gave a shoutout to Mike Easton’s Bar Bacetto in Waitsburg, Washington. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who used to eat at Easton’s dearly departed Il Corvo.

Get Your $4 food at the U District

The University District is doubling down on its rep as the cheap eats capital of Seattle with the $4 Food Walk, which runs from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. As the name suggests, there are a bunch (over 70, says this press release we’re looking at) restaurants offering deals on little snacks. You can get iced cucumber seltzer matchas at Boon Boona Coffee, mini banh mi at Thanh Vi, and wood-fired skewers at Hinoki at Saint Bread.