St. Paul baristas to Starbucks: ‘We’re not going away’

Baristas at the Starbucks on Snelling and Stanford avenues in St. Paul went on strike for the fourth time since winning their union election a year ago.

Workers at Minnesota’s first unionized Starbucks store, at Snelling and Stanford avenues in St. Paul, went on strike for a fourth time April 27 – on the one-year anniversary of their historic union election – after management unlawfully removed their union bulletin board.

Workers on the picket line said the bulletin-board stunt is emblematic of Starbucks’ do-nothing approach to labor relations since a wave of successful union drives began sweeping across the country 18 months ago.

“Starbucks corporate right now is really trying to take the energy out of the union campaign, I think,” barista Kato Nazarian said. “But we’re not going away. We’re going to be here. We’ve been here for a year already, and we’re going to keep coming out until we get a contract.”

Pulling down a union bulletin board isn’t just disrespectful – it’s illegal, too.

But breaking labor law has become the norm for Starbucks’ since the union organizing spree began. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), through its regional offices, has issued over 80 official complaints against Starbucks, alleging over 1,400 charges of unfair labor practices since late 2021. The charges include illegal surveillance of workers, firing union supporters and failing to bargain in good faith.

Workers at Minnesota’s six unionized shops can attest to Starbucks’ failure to bargain.

The company’s representatives walked out of separate meetings with bargaining teams from St. Paul and unionized locations in St. Anthony and Minneapolis after just five minutes – and has refused to meet since.

Kato Nazarian (R), a barista at the unionized Starbucks in St. Paul, and Starbucks Workers United organizer Hannah Fogarty chalked the union’s logo onto the sidewalk outside the store.

The same scene has played out in over 100 bargaining sessions nationwide, according to Starbucks Workers United.

“Recently, a (district manager) came in to the store, and she asked if I needed anything from her,” barista Graciela Nira said. “I told her I needed some bargaining dates.”

“It’s been a year and we still haven’t had any bargaining sessions that Starbucks has shown up to,” Nazarian said. “They have refused to release benefits to our store that they’ve released to other stores. They’ve cut down our hours so that we’re extremely short staffed, more so than since I’ve been here. And then they took down our union board.”

The NLRB process is grinding, but Nira, who serves on the union’s national bargaining committee, said she is hopeful it will push Starbucks back to the bargaining table.

Meanwhile, baristas around the country are continuing to organize with Starbucks Workers United, which now represents some 8,000 workers at over 300 U.S. locations.

The national union recently released a list of its contract demands. They include a $20 starting wage, with cost-of-living adjustments for baristas in high-cost areas.

The union also says it will bargain for grievance procedures, employer-paid health insurance with mental-health coverage, consistent schedules, higher staffing levels and more.

On the picket line in St. Paul, workers said staffing is at the top of their concerns. Their bargaining unit had 20 members when workers petitioned for a union election a year ago. Now it’s down to 12.

“Every day we’re extremely understaffed and overworked,” Nazarian said. “And we’re not getting the pay for it. It’s just not sustainable.”

Nazarian and Nira were the two union members who clocked into work at 5 a.m. April 27. Two hours later, as the store was set to open, about 20 co-workers, customers and community supporters showed up in solidarity as they walked off the job.

It was the first strike at the St. Paul location that involved a walkout, and union members pulled it together in about 48 hours, Nazarian said.

“We just want to sit down and bargain,” Nira added.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: