After becoming the first Starbucks to file for a union in Pittsburgh, workers at the coffee chain’s Bloomfield location unanimously voted on April 13 to become the first unionized Starbucks in Pennsylvania. This 20-0 victory comes after months of Starbucks workers announcing efforts to build their unions across the country. Since the Bloomfield store filed for their union election two months ago, seven additional stores in Pittsburgh have now publicly announced their intentions to unionize as well. The new union is part of a growing labor movement in Pittsburgh’s coffee shops, including Coffee Tree Roasters, where workers announced plans to unionize in January.
Since the first Starbucks in Buffalo voted to unionize in December, Starbucks workers in over 200 locations across the United States have formed their own organizing committees. Out of the successfully unionized stores, at least four have won their union with a unanimous vote. Starbucks workers are joining the larger union movement that has been building across the service industry. Workers cite increased wages, more affordable healthcare and safe working conditions as their primary demands and reasons to fight.
The Bloomfield Starbucks Workers Organizing Committee’s official statement reads: “We are so proud to become the first union Starbucks cafe in Pennsylvania. We are happy to carry the torch in Pittsburgh. Our win today is a win for baristas across the Commonwealth, and all workers in the struggle to organize! We urge Starbucks CEO to do what’s right and sign the Starbucks Workers United Non-interference and Fair Election Principles.”
Liberation News spoke with Jake Welsh, a worker at the Bloomfield store, about the win and what comes next. Welsh talked about the current energy among his partners at the Bloomfield Starbucks.
“Everyone is really excited. There has been a huge amount of public support since announcing our union. The volume of groups and customers reaching out to show support shows us — Pittsburgh has such a strong union history, and Pittsburgh stays a union town.”
As to what the Bloomfield workers see as the next priority, Welsh spoke about the ongoing need to organize more workers. “Now we need to build worker power. The more unified workers are across the city, across the country, the more our power grows. This will make all the difference when we start collective bargaining.”
But their solidarity does not just go to other Starbucks workers. Jake Welsh talked about strong worker solidarity from other industries as well. “I think our Bloomfield store hasn’t been subject to as much union-busting as some of the other locations in Pittsburgh. The Market Square location has particularly been under pressure. Last week, United Steelworkers answered a call for support at Market Square and showed up in the store chanting in support of workers. This really helped raise morale around the union effort.”
As more Starbucks workers are organizing their workplaces, filing for union elections and beginning to win union victories such as this one in Pittsburgh, Starbucks corporate has responded with ramped-up efforts to union-bust. They have spread misinformation and hired anti-union lawyers instead of answering their employees’ demands. Starbucks also recently went back on a plan to buy back $20 billion worth of stock in order to raise profits instead of putting that money to worker wages and healthcare. The withdrawal of this deal came only after workers raised their voices and collectively pushed back against it, showing that when workers are organized they can apply the pressure needed to win their demands.