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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Shadle Center Starbucks votes to join union, becoming first Spokane store to organize

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 )
By Elena Perry The Spokesman-Review

Starbucks employees from the Shadle Center store voted to unionize Friday, becoming the first location in Spokane to join the ranks of Starbucks Workers United.

Employees, called partners, voted 12-4 in favor of being represented by the union.

Shadle partners filed to unionize in April, citing insufficient hours, unexpected schedule changes and decrease in morale.

“We are tired of being treated as expendable, replaceable and frankly disrespected,” wrote barista Alex Moore in a letter to Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan and signed by over a dozen Shadle partners.

The union represents over 8,000 baristas. As of June, 319 Starbucks locations have unionized, according to a tracker on More Perfect Union. The Shadle store is now among these ranks, though they’re only the second in Eastern Washington to unionize, following a Walla Walla store’s affirmative vote to organize in May. Most of Washington’s unionized Starbucks stores are concentrated in the Seattle area.

According to the letter, partners received pay raises in January, but their hours were cut, so many employees started making less as a result. Partners would often fall short of the requirement of 20 hours per week to receive benefits through Starbucks, like health care and scholarship access. Partners behind the counter found themselves in need of the help, while unscheduled employees were at home wanting the hours.

“We all understand that there’s lulls in business,” Moore said in an interview on his lunch break. “But when we were busy, especially during the holidays when everyone is getting their holiday drinks, we still weren’t seeing improved hours.”

Additionally, shift leads were unable to cover shifts as baristas, despite having the training.

“We definitely could have used them; there were times when it was a struggle. We felt like we were working a skeleton crew.”

Baristas also found their schedules would change after being posted – they would see one shift on their schedule, only to look again and see it had changed without warning.

“We all learned to be very consistently checking our app, which is not how it should be at all,” Moore said.

After following the chain of command with their concerns, Moore said employee complaints were brushed off by management. Feeling alone and unsupported, the coffee brewers looked to other stores’ actions.

“These were major issues that really affected people’s livelihood, and there was no solution even being talked about,” Moore said. “We finally got to the point where we were like, ‘OK, well, we are the only ones who have our backs.’ ”

Starbucks did not respond to a request for comment on the Shadle store’s unionization.

Moore said since unionizing, optimism has returned to the workplace, though they still have work to do.

“The camaraderie we have shown as a store banding together, it’s definitely been something super inspirational, because we can do this,” Moore said. “We have each other if nobody else has us.”