PITTSBURGH, PA — Today, two more Starbucks locations in Pittsburgh went public to demand a safer, more democratic workplace and file for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board. The partners at stores #787 (Market Square) and #2900 (Craig Street) joined Starbucks’ partners at Amos Hall and Bloomfield, making four total Starbucks locations across the Steel City working towards union representation in the company.
The Pittsburgh stores join a national wave of Starbucks stores that have begun organizing since workers at two Buffalo locations won their elections last year, becoming the first of 9,000 corporate-owned Starbucks locations in the country to successfully unionize. More than 150 Starbucks locations throughout the U.S. have now petitioned for union elections, with many additional stores actively organizing to prepare to file for elections.
In open letters to Starbucks’ Interim CEO Howard Schultz, the Market Square and Craig Street Starbucks Organizing Committees admonished the company’s ongoing union busting and outlined a series of grievances with the company.
The Market Square Starbucks Organizing Committee wrote the following:
“Market Square declares that we have unanimously—with 100% support—formed a union and are seeking recognition of that union from the company. In Market Square, we don’t see ourselves as a mere workplace. We are a community, a safe space for our partners, and in a way, a family.
[...] Despite our hard work, most of us are unable to meet the cost of living in our city with our Starbucks wages alone and have had to seek second jobs. In spite of low wages, labor cuts, and circumstances that are more demanding than ever, we watched our CEO receive a 40% pay raise. Make no mistake, partners across the country who received a raise of mere pennies heard this message loud and clear. Now is the time to make our voices heard."
The Craig Street Starbucks Organizing Committee wrote the following:
“For a long time, we have labored under the assumption that [Starbucks] would maintain our company’s values by connecting with transparency, dignity, and respect. We were wrong. [Starbucks’] campaign has been self-righteous and patronizing, and we as partners are quite frankly embarrassed by the blatant violations of Starbucks values by corporate leadership. We stand in solidarity with the ever-growing number of stores across the country calling for you to respect our rights to organize. They are our true Starbucks family—the one that you claim to be a part of as you orchestrate this shameless onslaught of dishonesty and intimidation.”
Pittsburgh partners are organizing in spite of Starbucks’ outrageous anti-union campaign across the country. Both Craig Street and Market Square have already seen retaliatory action from Starbucks management.
Market Square's full letter reads:
Starbucks Support Center
March 23, 2022
This letter, written on the behalf of the Partners at Starbucks store #784, Market Square (Pittsburgh, PA) declares that we have unanimously - with 100% support - formed a union and are seeking recognition of our union from the company. In Market Square, we don’t see ourselves as a mere workplace. We are a community, a safe space for our partners, and in a way, a family. Our cafe has been a place where we’ve made lifelong friendships and unbreakable bonds with fellow partners through our passion for coffee and hard work that we have put towards bettering this company. Our store manager has added nothing but positivity to our work environment and we all have great respect for him. We are proud to have had a positive impact on our community and would like to continue to do so in the safest and most productive way possible. For these reasons, among others, we know that it is in our best interest to join Starbucks Workers United.
Market Square is a unique location and comes with a variety of challenges. Being an essential downtown Pittsburgh store, many of our regulars are facing major life challenges, including mental illness, houselessness, and addiction. This leads to a multitude of stressful scenarios within our cafe that our partners are often ill-equipped to deal with. On top of adverse circumstances that we deal with on a daily basis, from health hazards to verbal and physical harassment, our partners are asked to do the job of multiple people at once due to intentional understaffing in the name of profits. This intentional understaffing has been detrimental to the Starbucks experience for both customers and partners for far too long, and we know that this company can do better.
Since the start of the pandemic, we have been thoroughly drained by Starbucks’ expectation that we will continue to go above and beyond for our jobs while simultaneously facing a growing number of challenges. Additionally, prices for menu items have skyrocketed while our wages have stagnated; despite our hard work, most of us are unable to meet the cost of living in our city with our Starbucks wages alone and have had to seek second jobs. In spite of low wages, labor cuts, and circumstances that are more demanding than ever, we watched our CEO receive a 40% pay raise. Make no mistake, partners across the country who received a raise of mere pennies heard this message loud and clear. Now is the time to make our voices heard.
At Market Square, our goal is to create the best conditions possible for our partners and customers alike. We believe that our partners should feel secure and supported, not overwhelmed by a stressful job that does not even meet the bare minimum requirement of guaranteeing financial stability. In order to achieve this, we will push for positive change including consistent schedules, higher wages, and a greater focus on workplace safety. We believe that with these changes, we can bring our store to its maximum potential and inspire others to do the same.
We love being a part of Starbucks, and we sincerely believe that the community we have established is worth fighting for. For that reason, we are demanding recognition for our union and through that recognition, an acknowledgement of the time, care, hard work and passion we have put into making our store what it is today.
Ásta Rún Agnarsdóttir
And other partners who wish to remain anonymous
Craig Street's full letter reads:
Starbucks Support Center
March 23, 2022
We are partners from the Craig St. location in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The recent organizing efforts led by partners across the country have inspired us to join the movement. There is no doubt to us that Starbucks is a good company. We are diverse, welcoming, and we strive to do better each and every day. At Craig St., we love our customers, our store manager, and our fellow partners. We love putting on the Green Apron. This is why we are filing with the NLRB to join Starbucks Workers United.
We can no longer wait on the incremental changes promised every year by you and your board members. It is our right to join a union in order to collectively bargain for better pay, safer working conditions, employment stability, and to maintain our dignity. In an anti-union address to Starbucks partners from all over the country, you described the presence of “two empty chairs” within every corporate conference room: that of the partner and that of the customer. You laid this analogy out before us without realizing that the empty chair you describe is not a heartfelt marker of your consideration in our absence, but is a glaring sign of corporate ignorance and disregard. Instead of stock buybacks and astronomical raises to the top of the company, we who wear the green apron every day believe that this chair should no longer be unoccupied.
We are disappointed by the numerous attacks you have led against our fellow partners. For a long time, we have labored under the assumption that you of all people would maintain our company’s values by connecting with transparency, dignity, and respect. We were wrong. Your campaign has been self-righteous and patronizing, and we as partners are quite frankly embarrassed by the blatant violations of Starbucks values by your corporate leadership. We stand in solidarity with the ever-growing number of stores across the country calling for you to respect our rights to organize. They are our true Starbucks family— the one that you claim to be a part of as you orchestrate this shameless onslaught of dishonesty and intimidation.
Our store manager has done everything in her power to ensure that we are all provided the opportunities we need to earn a living. Earlier this year, however, she informed us that she had to make drastic changes to our schedules and that it may be wise to find a second job if need be. Her leadership, empathy, and transparency are attributes of immense value that many in the upper echelons of the company should strive for. We do not simply believe, but know that Starbucks is more than capable of supplying adequate hours and livable wages to all partners. No store manager in this country should be burdened with the responsibility of telling their partners that they may not be able to make next month's rent without a second job.
Keep in mind that history is on our side. The AFL was founded in Pittsburgh. The Iron Workers International Union was founded in Pittsburgh. The CIO was founded in Pittsburgh. We are home to leaders like Bayard Rustin and Joseph Yablonski. We are the home of Nate Smith, who led the effort to break racial and gender barriers and brought thousands of Black Pittsburghers into the movement. In the Gilded Age industrialists like Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick fired upon the brave workers in Homestead. This did not stop them from organizing. In Pittsburgh, we will not be deterred by the union-busting tactics of the law firms you employ nor the out-of-touch regional and district managers who do not know our struggles.
Unions helped build this country. Keeping us out of Starbucks Workers United makes you rich. We are the ones that connect with our customers and community. We are the ones acting with courage, challenging the status quo, and finding new ways to grow the company. Starbucks cannot— and will not— survive without our labor, our participation, and our representation. Having made our sentiments abundantly clear, we ask with due respect that you voluntarily recognize our wishes to file for union elections.
Craig Street Starbucks
And those partners who wish to remain anonymous at this time