ABQ Starbucks files petition to unionize - Albuquerque Journal

ABQ Starbucks files petition to unionize

Jacob Sherwood, a Starbucks barista at Rio Grande and Interstate 40, is part of an organizing group that filed a petition on Monday that can lead to a possible unionization of the coffee shop’s 31 employees. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Jacob Sherwood has been a barista at the Starbucks on Rio Grande and Interstate 40 since October, and he says it’s constantly busy.

Most days, he said, the coffee shop is understaffed and employees feel overworked.

Sherwood and five of his colleagues have launched the process to make his shop the first Starbucks in New Mexico to unionize – an effort aimed at getting employees better pay and more robust health care benefits.

The organizing group on Monday filed a petition with the help of the Workers United Western States Regional Joint Board.

Workers United Deputy Manager Evelyn Zepeda confirmed the petition was filed, though the filing has yet to appear on the National Labor Relations Board’s docket.

“I think it’s just trying to help our store and help our partners actually be able to achieve the life or the outcome they want from the job,” the 21-year-old Sherwood said.

A Starbucks spokesperson said the company will follow the NLRB process.

“We are listening and learning from the partners in these stores as we always do across the country,” a Starbucks spokesman told the Journal. “From the beginning, we’ve been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us, and that conviction has not changed.”

The local Starbucks joins more than 300 Starbucks stores across the country that have either unionized or are in the process of unionization, according to Starbucks Workers United.

A union spokesperson said more than 4,000 Starbucks employees in 35 states have now joined the Starbucks Workers United, and more than 4,700 workers are in the process of organizing their store.

Unionization of Starbucks locations began last December when a store in Buffalo, New York, successfully voted to unionize.

At the heart of a potential unionization for the local Starbucks, Sherwood said, is the desire for an expansion of benefits and job security. A detailed list of demands has yet to be determined, however.

Sherwood said the local Starbucks, which is open from 4:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, is one of the busiest in the state with customers lined up nearly all hours of the day. He said it is a common practice for two employees to leave their shift only to be replaced by one, creating a strain on the workers at that location.

“I can tell you that we all feel like we’re understaffed,” he said. ” It’s really difficult and hard to manage that type of volume of people.”

Sherwood said coworkers have remarked that the staffing levels of the Rio Grande location are similar to other Starbucks, despite having more traffic than many of the other locations in the city.

The local organizing group recently sent a letter to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, saying workers are faced with labor cuts, a lack of job security, understaffed shifts and unlivable pay at the same time “yearly profits hit billions of dollars.”

The starting wage is $12 an hour at the Starbucks near Old Town and workers have access to health care and dental benefits, paid time off accrual and free drinks, Sherwood said.

Starbucks said in May it plans to move all U.S. employees to $15 an hour beginning on Aug. 1, but Sherwood said that increase is not nearly enough when factoring in the rising cost of living in recent months.

“We just want to be able to at least, like, make a decent living and actually get by without worrying about, ‘Can I buy food this week? It’s rent week, am I going to be able to pay for gas and all these other essential things that I need?,'” he said.

Workers will vote on whether to unionize in a couple months, Sherwood said.

While workers wait to vote on unionization, Sherwood said he was told by other workers at unionized locations to expect visits from high-level Starbucks managers.

“It’s going to be a propaganda war between the corporation Starbucks and us trying to … inform our coworkers of what the union can do for us,” he said.

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