Workers at Starbucks in Cottonwood Heights plan to unionize

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah — Workers at a Starbucks in Cottonwood Heights announced their plans Thursday to form a labor union. If successful, they would become the first Starbucks store in Utah to unionize.

“I think it’s really neat that this entire movement is led by baristas like me just communicating after work,” said Jacob Lawson, Shift Supervisor.

Shift supervisor Jacob Lawson has been with Starbucks for 4 years and never thought he’d be leading the way for his team to form a union.

More than 100 Starbucks locations around the country have filed for union recognition in over 20 states since last fall.

“As soon as the Buffalo stores started unionizing I started talking to everyone about it and I really wanted to know what their thoughts were, and when everyone said oh that sounds great is really when we talked about doing it here,” said Lawson.

Starbucks partners at the 7025 South Highland Drive location planned to formally petition the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Thursday for a union representation election.

Brittany Glazier has been with the company for three years. She says she’s excited to be a part of this movement.

“We deserve to have our voices heard as partners in this company… and just embodying what a partner means is standing up for each other and making sure we get what we deserve,” said Brittany Glazier.

Nationally, Starbucks workers are organizing with Workers United (SEIU), the same international union that has backed successful campaigns in Buffalo NY, Mesa Arizona, Seattle Washington, and Knoxville Tennessee.

According to Workers United, an overwhelming majority of eligible employees at the Cottonwood Heights cafe have signed union authorization cards.

But taking on a multibillion-dollar corporation which has not been quiet about an anti-union position is a bold move.

“They’ve been practicing quite a bit of union busting, we’ve experienced some hour cuts here. Higher management is discouraging us from unionizing,” said Glazier.

Jacob and Brittany hope by standing up and speaking out they can change the work environment to be better for everyone.

“I grew up in a union family, the difference in a way that a union works changed by life and a child and I hope to give that to other people and experience that myself,” said Glazier.

“This is what we need more of the country, it’s great that Starbucks is unionizing, but I think it’s important that McDonalds or Taco Bell employees look at the Starbucks movement and go, we can do that too,” said Lawson.

In a letter e-mailed early Thursday morning to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and signed by the store’s employees, Cottonwood Heights workers wrote:

“’Partnership’ means sharing power, accountability and success. That is why you are receiving this letter today. We.. the partners of Starbucks 50326 …have decided to stand with partners across the country in expressing our intentions to unionize. We’re overjoyed to declare that we will be filing (for an election) with Workers United, and we are excited to see what this will bring.”

Michelle Eisen, a Buffalo Barista who helped lead the first successful organizing campaign at Starbucks in December of last year, added her voice:

“I am thrilled to welcome the first store from the state of Utah to our campaign! It takes an immense amount of courage to be the first to do anything, but it is especially brave in this case. The decision to take on a multi billion dollar corporation that has not been shy about its anti-union position, deserves to be applauded. With each new petition filed our movement gains both momentum and strength. I am incredibly excited to add the Cottonwood Heights store to our list! ”

NPR reported that Starbucks has pushed back on unionizing efforts at other locations with tactics including closing stores for months after workers announced intentions to unionize.

Union organizers have said they want better training, better staffing, and better pay that will increase over time, as well as more respect from management.

FOX 13 News has reached out to the Starbucks corporation for comment.

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