Militant Journalism

Pittsburgh Starbucks workers file for union election

Workers at the Bloomfield Starbucks in Pittsburgh joined the nationwide unionization effort when they filed for an election with the National Labor Relations Board. Over 100 Starbucks locations in the majority of states have petitioned the NLRB for an election so far. Bloomfield Starbucks workers also join five Coffee Tree Roasters Pittsburgh locations that filed for elections in late December.

Liberation News interviewed Jake, a worker at the Bloomfield Starbucks location.

“We were watching the Buffalo workers really closely. There had always been ‘jokes’ about forming a union here, but it was always something that seemed impossible. Until it wasn’t.” Jake recalls, “As soon as they won in Buffalo, we got serious about organizing our location.”

The Bloomfield Starbucks Organizing Committee accompanied their election filing with a letter to Starbucks President and CEO, Kevin Johnson. The letter outlines their demands — such as stronger COVID safety, guaranteed schedules and better pay — but Jake emphasizes workers also want a seat at the table. The letter reads, “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.”

Jake described the mood of his coworkers, “We’re confident we will win. We have over 90% support. Luckily, the union busters haven’t descended on our location yet, but we’re ready for that too. Since we began I’ve made sure to inoculate against the boss’s lies — going to my coworkers with the latest anti-union messaging and pointing out the hypocrisies.”

The legacy of unionism in Pittsburgh is alive and well. In October 2021, about 3,000 University of Pittsburgh faculty voted 2 to 1 in favor of forming a union. Just weeks later, workers at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center — the largest employer in Pennsylvania — went on a one-day strike to protest UPMC’s union-busting tactics. Bloomfield Starbucks workers highlighted this legacy in their letter to the CEO, “Pittsburgh is a union town — it is our turn to join that history.”

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