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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Shadle Starbucks petitions to unionize

Employees at the West Wellesley Avenue Starbucks filed a petition to unionize. The workers later voted 12-4 to join Starbucks Workers United.  (Quinn Welsch/Spokesman-Review )

Starbucks workers at the company’s Shadle location in Spokane filed a petition to unionize with Starbucks Workers United, a campaign to organize Starbucks workers across the country.

In a letter addressed to Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan, the workers described a “lack of follow through and accountability from management,” as well as decreased wages and diminishing morale, among other things.

“We are tired of being treated as expendable, replaceable, and frankly disrespected,” the letter said. “We are unionizing to take a stand against this mistreatment.”

Workers at the Shadle location received hourly wage increases at the beginning of the year, but are actually receiving less pay due to a lack of hours, according to the letter, which was penned by Shadle Starbucks barista Alex Moore and signed by more than a dozen coworkers.

The workers alleged that they are working unusual hours, often with too many or too few employees on the floor.

“I think it gives us more power, and it requires these issues to be looked at rather than swept under the rug,” said Moore, 20, after his shift. “The union works for us to make sure these accommodations and anything else are actually addressed.”

The cafe, located near a Safeway at 2401 W. Wellesley Ave., is the first Starbucks location in Spokane to petition for union representation.

Moore and his co-workers accused Starbucks of not living up to its expressed values.

“We had a partner in our store who needed reasonable accommodations for a disability in their hand, which were not met,” he wrote. “Starbucks is a company that prides itself on upholding a culture where inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility are valued and respected. … The failure to accommodate is extremely disheartening and one of our concerns while unionizing.”

Starbucks has been against union organizing for years.

Former CEO Howard Schultz, during a heated Senate hearing in late March, maintained that the company prefers a “direct relationship” with its employees. Schultz appeared at the hearing to address allegations that the company has broken labor laws to prevent a cascade of Starbucks unionizations over the last two years.

According to Starbucks Workers United, the Shadle location is among nearly 400 others that have filed petitions to unionize across the country since the COVID-19 pandemic, beginning with a location in Buffalo, New York, in December 2021. A Starbucks location in Walla Walla filed a petition to unionize in March of this year.

The National Labor Relations Board, which oversees unionization efforts, will hold an election among the Shadle location’s employees. That vote will likely take place within about a month, according to a spokeswoman for Starbucks Workers United who declined to give her name.

Moore said he and his co-workers had been considering unionization for the past couple of months and were in discussion with other Starbucks locations that successfully unionized in Seattle and Bend, Oregon.

Starbucks Workers United is part of Workers United, a union that is an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union. Starbucks operates more than 9,000 locations across the U.S.

“Our team is amazing,” Moore said. “We deeply care for each other at our store and we really try to foster a sense of belonging for all of our partners. It’s inclusive and it’s belonging.”