PITTSBURGH, PA — Today, driven by outrage over Starbucks’ blatant union busting display in Memphis and their hope for a safer, more democratic workplace, workers at a Starbucks in the Bloomfield neighborhood became the first Pittsburgh employees of the global coffee chain to file for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board.
The Bloomfield location joins 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. In becoming the first store in Pittsburgh to file for an NLRB election, the Bloomfield workers bring the national campaign’s explosive momentum to the cradle of the early US labor rights movement.
In an open letter to Starbucks’ CEO Kevin Johnson, the Bloomfield Starbucks Organizing Committee outlined their solidarity with Memphis partners as well as a series of grievances with the company, including low pay and poor working conditions.
The Starbucks Organizing Committee wrote the following:
“In the Starbucks boardroom there is an empty chair, symbolizing us: the baristas and play-callers who cannot be at the table. We are done with symbolism. We want our seat at the table to be tangible, physical, real. A union is the way to do that. We ask that you: do not interfere with our request for an election; leave your union-busting tactics at the door. We are stronger together and we deserve better. Please remember that the core of Starbucks is not just the coffee and customers – the core of Starbucks is its partners.”
The Bloomfield partners are organizing despite Starbucks’ active unlawful campaign of anti-union retaliation. Even in the aftermath of the firings in Memphis, these workers joined a wave of new stores across the country organizing to join Starbucks Workers United. “Pittsburgh is a union town - it is our turn to join that history,” their letter to the corporate giant states.
The Bloomfield Starbucks' partners full letter reads:
President and CEO
Starbucks Support Center
We respectfully request that you read the following statement through the lens of humanity. Through the past several months, we have watched with great pride as stores across the country have challenged the status quo by linking arms in a historic unionization effort. We are incredibly grateful for the enormous strength and resilience demonstrated by these partners, and the sacrifices they have made to better their communities. But we are also disappointed by the response from the company with regard to their efforts. We believe that if our dignity and well-being is a priority, then Starbucks should not stand between partners or attempt to prevent us from collectively affecting our working conditions.
It is incumbent upon us to join hands with our partners in order to create a better world and a better Starbucks experience on both sides of the counter. As such, we at store #7749 are writing this letter to inform you of our intentions to hold an election to join Starbucks Workers United. We love Starbucks. We stand by our Mission Statement and our values as a company, and we aim to act in a way that encompasses those values both on and off the floor. We at the Bloomfield Starbucks believe in fostering and creating a community that cares for each other. Pittsburgh is a union town – it is our turn to join that history.
Our team is devoted to each other, our customers, and our community. We know our worth and the worth of our store. Our manager Jesse is the exemplary image of an exceptional Starbucks manager, who produces the most welcoming and supportive Third Place for Bloomfield. Despite this, our store has faced its own challenges. We have been told by upper management that we should not discuss our pay with each other. We have been told that an overcrowded cafe is not a concern during the largest global pandemic in the past century. We have been told that we will not receive catastrophe pay during power outages and waterline maintenance, which has robbed partners of the hours they need to pay their bills in an increasingly expensive city. We have been told to work in 95° heat with no air conditioning. All of this is completely unacceptable.
Writing this letter, we see several opportunities for improvement with regard to our working conditions, and therefore set forth the following demands. As the global pandemic develops and becomes more complex, protections for partners have decreased considerably. We demand better COVID protocols, including but not limited to: reduced cafe seating, mandatory masks for customers, and more extensive coverage to support regular cafe cleaning. For too long our schedules have been inconsistent and our pay has been too low. We demand guaranteed hours for both full and part-time partners, better pay, the ability to negotiate our wages, and total transparency into the process by which our wages are determined. Finally, we believe that all partners deserve a certain level of respect and appreciation. We demand the implementation of a just cause clause, an expansion of the digital tipping system, and better training to grapple with high-stress store incidents.
In the Starbucks boardroom there is an empty chair, symbolizing us: the baristas and play-callers who cannot be at the table. We are done with symbolism. We want our seat at the table to be tangible, physical, real. A union is the way to do that. We ask that you: do not interfere with our request for an election; let this election play out with NLRB precedent; leave your union-busting tactics at the door. We are stronger together and we deserve better. Please remember that the core of Starbucks is not just the coffee and customers – the core of Starbucks is its partners.