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Starbucks stores in Long Beach, Lakewood unionize as labor movement hits Southern California

Workers from two Starbucks stores, in Lakewood and Long Beach, celebrate at the Workers United office near MacArthur Park in Los Angeles where they gathered Friday to hear union election results as ballots were tallied.
(California Labor Federation)

Workers at two Southern California Starbucks locations, one in Lakewood and one in Long Beach, voted to join a union Friday, bringing the total number of unionized Starbucks locations in California to four.

The votes came days after the first union victories for Starbucks workers in California at two Santa Cruz stores. They are part of a national campaign to organize the coffee giant that has spread rapidly across the country over the last six months.

Twenty-four workers at the store near Candlewood Street and Lakewood Boulevard in Lakewood voted to join Workers United, with one voting against. At the Starbucks location by Redondo Avenue and 7th Street in Long Beach, 13 workers voted unanimously in favor of the union.

Workers from both stores gathered at the Western States Regional Joint Board’s office by MacArthur Park in Los Angeles on Friday to hear the results as ballots were tallied. WSRJB is a chapter of Workers United representing California workers. Workers United is an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union.

Josie Serrano, a barista at the Long Beach store, said working conditions at Starbucks have deteriorated over the years, with baristas having to juggle more roles and tasks.

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“When I started four years ago I didn’t have to do such stressful work,” Serrano said.

Serrano hopes unionization will improve work conditions. “Now we have something really bright to look forward to.”

Starbucks spokesperson Reggie Borges said in an emailed statement that the company respects workers’ right to organize, but it prefers to address workplace concerns directly.

“We are listening and learning from the partners in these stores as we always do across the country,” Borges said. “From the beginning, we’ve been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us, and that conviction has not changed.”

Workers at the two stores announced their intent to unionize on March 7, writing in open letters that they felt overworked, understaffed and underpaid.

Workers at the Lakewood store wrote in their open letter that raises have been inadequate and that there is no clear roadmap for promotions. They said they are seeking greater job security by ending at-will employment, a policy that means they can be terminated without cause.

The Lakewood letter, signed by 19 workers, praised their store’s manager but said that through unionizing they hope to change structural problems within the company that are “out of her hands.”

The Long Beach letter cited instances of the company firing pro-union workers and challenges it filed with the federal labor board to union petitions — which workers described as attempts at delaying the electoral process.

“Our partners are disappointed by how the company has treated those that have spoken up,” workers at the Long Beach store wrote.

In total, 84 Starbucks stores have held ballot counts, said National Labor Relations Board spokesperson Kayla Blado. Of stores that have held elections, 69 have voted for a union and nine have voted against. At six stores, the results are too close to be determined and will be litigated in the coming months.

Elections at 49 stores have been officially certified for a union to represent the workers.

Starbucks operates nearly 9,000 stores in the United States.

Votes tallied Tuesday at two Starbucks stores in Santa Cruz brought a growing union movement at the coffee giant to California.


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