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Sarasota Starbucks workers seek to join national union

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  • | 4:15 p.m. June 1, 2023
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Starbucks workers cited poor working conditions in a letter to the company's CEO.
Starbucks workers cited poor working conditions in a letter to the company's CEO.
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  • Manatee-Sarasota
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A group of eight Starbucks employees in one Sarasota location are seeking to unionize. 

The employees, at the Fruitville Road and Honore Avenue location, have joined the nationwide movement to unionize with Starbucks Workers United by filing a petition with the National Labor Relations Board. According to a press release, thousands of baristas are behind the national movement, which SWU officials say was "organized to promote better working conditions."

In a letter to company CEO Laxman Narasimhan, employees at the Fruitville-Honore location, just west of Interstate 75, in particular highlighted what they say are ineffective internal policies including working conditions, benefits, wage decreases and sustainability. 

For example, the letter, also posted on Twitter, says "the single dollar raise has done little to push back the already rising cost of living in and working in Sarasota." On benefits, the workers say it's now "harder than ever for partners to qualify for health care benefits. At Starbucks on Honore, multiple partners are on a medical leave of absence."

"The reason we’ve decided to unionize lies in our working conditions. Most of our baristas are struggling to make ends meet and are actively losing their benefits,” Sydney Jamison, a barista and organizer at the Sarasota location, says in the release. “We as a union want a better say in our working environment as well as our staffing and ability to stand up for ourselves, both against corporate and customers. We deserve a say in our workplace."

More than 300 Starbucks store across 38 states and Washington, D.C., have unionized, the release states. The SWU tweet notes that the Honore store is No. 20 nationwide to file for a union vote in May. 

Starbucks, often lauded for its benefits and noted for years for its strong employee culture, has been fighting back on the unionization front. 

"We’ve been clear in our belief that we can achieve more together by working side-by-side with our partners," a Starbucks spokesperson says in an email to the Business Observer regarding the Honore store unionization effort. "As a result of the direct employment relationship preferred by more than 97% of our partners, we continue to work to reinvent and improve the Starbucks experience."

The spokesperson also notes the company has announced nearly $1 billion in partner-focused investments, including raising average U.S. partner wage to $17.50 an hour, a new tipping technology, an incentivized savings program, a student loan debt program, sick time increase and an updated family expansion reimbursement program.

"We're aware that a subset of partners feel differently, and we respect their right to organize and to engage in lawful union activities," the spokesperson says. "At those stores where our partners have chosen to petition for a union representation election, our focus is to ensure that they can trust the process is fair and their voice is heard. 

"We hope that all parties will respect our right to share factual information and our perspective with partners — just as we respect the union’s right to do so — so that partners are able to make an informed, balanced decision regarding union representation."

Seattle-based Starbucks posted $33.99 billion in revenue in the 12 months ending March 31, up 8.52% year-over-year.  


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