2224 Shattuck Ave. (between Allston Way and Kittridge Street), Berkeley
A Berkeley location of coffee chain Starbucks has joined a growing wave of unionization this week, after staffers voted 12-6 in favor of joining employee collective Starbucks Workers United.
There are currently two standalone Starbucks locations in Berkeley, at 1799 Solano Ave. and 2224 Shattuck Ave.; the company has two more locations inside the Target at 1414 University Ave. and the Safeway at 1444 Shattuck Pl. (Another standalone spot, arguably the city’s most contentious, closed its 3001 Telegraph Ave, doors in 2018.) Only one of those outposts has participated in the effort to unionize workers that began in Buffalo, New York late last year: the shop at 2224 Shattuck, right next to the recently shuttered Shattuck Cinema.
In an announcement posted to Twitter Monday by Workers United, employees at the shop voted 12-6 in favor of joining the union, making it the 16th Starbucks in California to do so, and the first one in the East Bay. Other locations that have recently unionized include three in Santa Cruz and one in San Francisco’s Castro District. According to a May report from the LA Times, over 200 Starbucks locations across the U.S. have filed petitions for union elections, and the SF Chronicle reported that over 75 stores had unionized at that time.
Workers at many of the Starbucks that have voted to unionize in recent months have characterized working conditions that included unexpected cuts to hours and a lack of protection from aggressive patrons.
It’s unclear if those stressors are what prompted the Berkeley location to unionize: An organizing partner for the Berkeley effort arranged an interview with Nosh but didn’t appear, and follow-up attempts to obtain comment were not responded to as of publication time.
But in an interview with The Daily Californian, worker Susie Miller said that “we saw that we had a lot in common with these other stores … A lot of the same struggles of not having a voice in our workplace, of not getting the support from Starbucks, the benefits from Starbucks or the pay, frankly, that we needed.”
According to Miller, workers started an organization effort in May, and held a vote with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) — which oversees U.S. unionization activities — the count of which was announced on Monday.
According to an NLRB spokesperson, after the vote, Starbucks has five business days to submit objections to the vote count. If none are filed, the results will be certified and the company must begin bargaining in good faith with union representatives.
Starbucks did not respond to requests for comment from Nosh, but told Recode in April that “we’ve been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us.”
In a complaint filed by the NLRB this week and reported on by the Washington Post, a plan announced in April by Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Shultz to offer “improved benefits” to non-unionized workers, only is an alleged violation of the National Labor Relations Act, and that by enacting it, the coffee chain “illegally withheld wages and benefits from thousands of unionized baristas.”