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Starbucks Workers at Mockingbird Station, Addison and Denton Seek to Unionize

The effort to unionize at Starbucks has started at some Dallas-area stores.
The effort to unionize at Starbucks has started at some Dallas-area stores. Lauren Drewes Daniels
Starbucks cafes around the nation are beginning to unionize. Now several North Texas stores are joining in.

Nine employees at the Starbucks at Mockingbird Station in Dallas submitted a letter to President and CEO Howard Schultz earlier this week.
In their letter, the baristas write that the company has forgotten that Starbucks was built for and by people, adding, "We find it difficult to represent this company every day at work when we do not have the resources and labor to meet demands, nor the wages to meet our own basic needs as human beings."

Workers at the Starbucks at 5000 Belt Line Road in Addison have also submitted a letter and plan to vote to unionize.

Nikita Russell, 32, has worked at Starbucks at Mockingbird Station for almost two years. Her name appears first on the letter to Schultz.

"Someone very important to me told me that the word 'partner' is a promise," Russell says. "And just like love, it requires action. We are doing this because this is what taking care of each other looks like."

A Starbucks in Buffalo, New York, was the first to vote and unionize in December 2021. According to Reuters, more than 170 cafes have requested a union election as of April 2022. Starbucks Workers United reports that as of May 20, 80 other stores have unionized successfully.

In their letter to Schultz, the Dallas baristas noted, "... it is difficult for us to come to work every day as we see the mental and physical health of our partners deteriorate as demands rise and support plummets."

We recently reported on complicated TikTok-inspired drink orders. Starbucks barista McKenna Ferrel told the Observer baristas' performance reviews are based on how long it takes them to make a drink and the number of customers per half-hour served, and those drinks are time-consuming. “Most of the time I don’t care at all, I think it’s fun as long as everybody stays understanding of inventory limitations and barista capacity."

A Starbucks cafe in Denton at Rayzor Ranch is working on unionizing and has already submitted a letter to the National Labor Relations Board. In their letter to Schultz, they cited a requirement to work a minimum of 20 hours every week to qualify for ASU, a company-sponsored college achievement plan, and to keep their health benefits. However, they struggle to get those required hours each week. Their effort to unionize is, in part, to ensure those benefits.

"It is difficult for us to reconcile being a part of such a successful company experiencing record profits with the struggle and suffering of the people we spend so much of our lives with at work each day," Russell told the Observer via email. "Several of these involve labor cuts, lack of support, the resources to do our jobs and wages that do not reflect the cost of living."

"It is difficult for us to reconcile being a part of such a successful company experiencing record profits with the struggle and suffering of the people we spend so much of our lives with at work each day." - Nikita Russell, Barista at Mockingbird Station

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For the second quarter of 2022, Starbucks reported a 17% spike in revenue for stores in North America. Net revenues for the company overall were up 15% to $7.6 billion.

In May, Schultz announced the company is raising hourly pay, the fourth increase in 18 months, as part of a $1 billion commitment from the company to invest in employees and in a bid to stymie the wave of unionizing stores. That puts the hourly starting rate at $15 an hour; then come August 1, it will rise to $17 an hour. There are other incentives as well, like fixing the often-broken ice machines.

But these increases in wages do not apply to unionized stores. Labor attorney Magdalen Bickford previously explained to Nation's Restaurant News, "You cannot change the terms and conditions of employment for anything good, bad or indifferent unless you bargain with the union."

Russell says they have filed their petition and will now wait to get an election date set, at which point the baristas for that store will vote on unionization. 
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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.