By COLIN STAUB
In mail ballots counted May 17, workers at four Portland Starbucks stores voted to unionize with Workers United, two of them by unanimous vote:
- 2880 SE Powell Blvd. 14-2
- 555 SW Oak St. 5-0
- 2328 W Burnside St. 7-2
- 525 NE Grand Ave. 9-0.
The votes mean Oregon now has 11 union Starbucks locations.
The National Labor Relations Board broadcast the ballot counting online via Zoom. To watch the ballot counts, several Starbucks baristas joined the Portland Democratic Socialists of America and other supporters at the Oregon AFL-CIO headquarters. As NLRB Field Examiner Michael Steffany ticked off the results, supporters cheered and applauded each union victory.
“I’ve been working at Starbucks for six years, and I never thought we would ever get to this point,” said Arthur Pratt, a shift supervisor at the West 23rd and Burnside store. Pratt worked the morning shift before attending the ballot count and said there was excitement at the store, although it was too busy for workers to talk much about the election.
Jules Clark-DuTeil and Simone Auer, both employees at the Southwest Fifth and Oak Starbucks in downtown Portland, were feeling confident coming into the count. Their store only has six employees, and they knew their coworkers were supporting the union effort. That didn’t make it any less impactful when the results were tallied.
“I’m ecstatic right now. I am so excited,” Clark-DuTeil said after the votes were in, as she texted fellow baristas who were celebrating in a union group chat.
Auer, who has worked at Starbucks for 10 years, said she had chills after her store’s unanimous vote was announced.
“I never thought this was something we could even do,” she said. Her phone started blowing up. A friend who works at a Starbucks that’s unionizing in California was watching the count virtually, and congratulations were pouring in.
Starbucks union supporters say they want guaranteed minimum hours each week, rather than sporadic scheduling. They want better staffing ratios that properly account for the amount of work. They want higher wages. Clark-DuTeil and Auer said they need better security measures at their store, which is in the heart of downtown Portland. Workers get harassed and threatened, and they often feel like they’re on their own without dedicated security in the store.
Pratt said a wider company problem is that many upper-level management personnel don’t have on-the-ground experience working as baristas or shift supervisors at Starbucks. That’s created a disconnect between workers and management.
“It’s just this big gap that has to be closed, and the best way to close it is to unionize, to have a voice,” Pratt said.
Auer said she was inspired by the workers in Buffalo, New York, who were the first to unionize with Workers United in December 2021.
“I think Buffalo reminded us to value ourselves as people,” Auer said. “It was like, whoa, wait, I can fight for myself.”
The next Portland Starbucks ballot counts are scheduled May 24, for a store at 7001 SE Milwaukie Ave., and June 7 for the 12235 N Center Ave. location.
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