The fifth Starbucks store in Colorado announced plans to unionize during a Monday morning press conference outside the Academy Boulevard and Flintridge Drive Starbucks in Colorado Springs.
Following the first union vote in Buffalo, New York, Starbucks stores across the country have begun the process of gaining official recognition from the National Labor Relations Board.
In a sign of growing support for the modern labor movement, members of the El Paso County Democratic Party and candidates for office, such as Stephanie Vigil, who is running for Colorado House, and John Foley, who is running for El Paso County Sheriff, came out to back the Starbucks workers.
“The Democratic Party has a long and storied history of working with unions and a very close relationship with working people,” said Chair of the El Paso County Democratic Party, John Mikos. “It’s always been kind of grounded in where we’re at, so I’m just so grateful to be here today, to be in solidarity with these barista workers who are working to organize and have a collective voice. I think what they’re doing is good for them, but more importantly, it’s good for all of us. Unions have helped create the middle class, they’ve helped stand for a liveable wage. These are things that are relevant not only to these people here who are organizing, but to all of us. I’m grateful for what they’re doing for themselves and their families, but I’m really grateful for what they’re doing for all of us.”
Bradley Kurtz, a barista at the Flintridge Drive Starbucks and lead organizer with the organizing committee there, said there is broad support for the union vote not just at his store, but at the 1455 S. Nevada Ave Starbucks location as well.
“This is a nationwide trend,” said Kurtz. “Since the union vote went through in Buffalo, at the end of December, hundreds of stores have now filed and we think that this trend is only going to continue and really be a force to be reckoned with.”
In February, a Starbucks spokesperson told the Colorado Times Recorder, “Our belief from the beginning has been that we’re better together as partners without a union between us. Our success as a company is built on how we partner together and our relationship.”
Kurtz said that workers have three main demands — increased tip accessibility, as customers can currently only tip with cash or through the Starbucks app, a consistent pay structure for tenured employees, and an increase in hours.
“At the beginning of January, early February I believe, Kevin Johnson our CEO, received a $14 million bonus,” he said. “That came a week or two after store managers found they would not be getting their bonuses because of ‘restructuring’ for the second year in a row. Weeks following that, we found out that, nationwide, hours were getting cut. They’re looking to make as many employees as possible part-time, and it’s not a liveable, sustainable condition for the employees that we have.”
According to a January article in Restaurant Business, “ Johnson received $1.6 million in salary. He also received $14.7 million in stock awards and another $4 million in incentive compensation.”
Mikos says the issues around labor and a liveable wage will play a role in upcoming elections. “Working people are really fundamental to our party and advancing what we’re trying to do for our community,” he said. “We’re working hard to have deep conversations, to understand what people are looking for, the candidates that are running throughout El Paso County are committed to advancing labor rights and working rights and I know this growing movement here locally is going to have a lot of positive synergies for all candidates who are running on that platform.”
While Mikos and other El Paso County Democrats support the movement for unionization and collective bargaining, some prominent Colorado Democrats do not, at least fully. In January, Gov. Jared Polis announced his opposition to legislation suggested by Sen. Steve Fenberg (D-Boulder) and Rep. Daneya Esgar (D-Pueblo), the Democratic majority leaders of the legislature, that would extend collective bargaining to public employees in Colorado. The bill has yet to be introduced.
Kurtz says workers are just looking for fair representation.
“Our concerns are well beyond that of the level of our store managers,” he notes. “We are fortunate enough at Academy [Boulevard] and Flintridge [Drive] to have a store manager who has been nothing but supportive and attentive and caring to the employees, but at the end of the day, there isn’t anything he can control in terms of the hours we receive and the pay structures that we have, whether that’s tipping or tenured pay. This is our chance to give us a seat at the table with corporate.”