By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
Employees at a Starbucks in Midwest City voted to unionize last week.
Union organizers asked for higher wages, better working conditions and consistent working hours.
Following a 13-3 vote, the store at 7203 SE 29th St. will join the Starbucks Workers United. It is the fourth store in the state to unionize and joins more than 360 in the U.S.
“The path to unionization has not been easy and our store has faced its own challenges throughout this process,” said Valerie Smith, a barista and organizer at the Midwest City store, in a press release. “Starbucks continues to work against their employees and shrug off accountability in favor of profits. Our victory shows that we will not let our labor be undervalued and we will continue the
fight for fair treatment and equal partnership.”
Viktoria Jekic, who has worked as a barista for three years, also helped organize the union effort and was optimistic about the vote.
“Everyone knew that regardless of a few no votes, we’d still win the union because everyone is really close and strong together after all that we’ve been through,” Jekic said.
Jekic said management consistently ignores employees’ concerns including staffing levels. Employees have had their hours reduced, which was initially supposed to be temporary, Jekic said.
“They were already severely cut and then they were cut again, and it pushed a lot of us to really pinch pennies and get a second job,” Jekic said. “And some people just left, which is unfortunate because we lost some really good people.”
Jekic insists the store had high sales revenues and good drive-thru times despite reduced staffing.
“That’s what really showed us that the company doesn’t care for us and the only way we’re going to have any sort of say or voice in the company is if we unionize,” Jekic said.
Employees at the Midwest City store filed a petition Oct. 2 with the National Labor Relations Board to unionize with Starbucks Workers United. In a letter to Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan, workers explained their reasons for pushing for a union.
“We have decided to unionize because we are tired of being treated as machines instead of human beings. Upper management continuously makes decisions without notifying or consulting partners.
District and Store managers lack knowledge of how their business operates and have pushed ‘do more with less’ to the point of impossibility. Any attempt to voice our concerns and frustrations is met swiftly with chastising and denial,” the letter said.
The store has about 20 employees. A total of 17 employees were eligible to vote.
“Pretty much everyone showed up yesterday and it was really nice to see that,” Jekic said.
The next step will be negotiating a contract with Starbucks that includes better pay and guaranteed hours for employees. Jekic said they would like to see the contract impact non-union stores as well.
Starbucks has pushed back against unionization efforts across the country. Union leaders say Starbucks has launched a union-busting campaign that includes threatening workers’ access to benefits, firing over union leaders across the country, and shuttering union stores.
Employees at a Starbucks store in Nichols Hills are trying to certify the union. The store was the first in the state to approve a union. Employees narrowly approved a union by a 13-11 vote in May of 2022.
This story was first reported by the Oklahoma City Free Press.