Workers at two Starbucks stores in Chicago vote to unionize

Workers at two Starbucks locations in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood voted Wednesday to join a union, the first in the city to do so in a national campaign targeting the coffee chain, labor organizers said.

The stores are at 5964 N. Ridge Ave. and 1070 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Workers United, part of the Service Employees International Union, said employees at each store voted to join its ranks. They are the first Starbucks locations within Chicago to hold a union election, a process supervised by the National Labor Relations Board.

The vote was 20-3 for the store on Ridge and 10-1 for the store on Bryn Mawr, Workers United organizer Grace Easterby said. Employees at the Ridge store issued a statement through the union that celebrated the result.

"We are so excited to move forward and start negotiations and have our voices heard. We want this to open the door for other Starbucks partners and inspire others to join the movement," the workers said.


The workers cast their ballots in person at the Edge Theater, 5451 N. Broadway, where the NLRB conducted the count. Other Starbucks elections have used mailed ballots.

Starbucks workers have cited better pay and benefits and more say in scheduling as being among their priorities. While there was no immediate comment from the company, it has stated that it supports the right to organize but regards employees as "partners" who don’t need a union.

Last month, a Starbucks in Cary became the first in the Chicago suburbs to unionize. A few days later, Starbucks workers in La Grange voted down an organizing attempt.

The NLRB is scheduled to count ballots June 7 for three more stores in the city. They are at 155 N. Wabash Ave.; 2543 N. California Ave. and 1174 E. 55th St.

Each store whose staff votes to organize would become its own bargaining unit and negotiate its own contract.

During NLRB hearings, the company objected to the store-by-store organizing drive, but the NLRB has repeatedly approved the tactic. Starbucks has wanted union balloting to occur at all stores in a given district, meaning that workers with no interest in joining a union would be voting on the question.

Workers United has led the national campaign at Starbucks, while a few store locations have indicated interest in joining the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. The NLRB said Tuesday that of the union elections counted thus far, baristas at 85 Starbucks stores backed the union and those at 10 have rejected it.

The federal agency said it has received requests for union elections at 268 Starbucks stores. The chain has more than 9,000 locations in the United States.