Starbucks baristas from Lakewood and Longmont join workers across the nation in massive unionization effort

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A union sign outside a Starbucks store on Columbine Street in Denver’s Cherry Creek shopping area on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, where employees were on strike as part of a nationwide action against the coffee retailer.

Workers at two Starbucks cafes in Colorado took the first steps toward unionizing Tuesday as part of a national organizing effort that’s already drawn support from other locations across the state. 

Employees from the 17th and Hover Starbucks in Longmont and the Jewell and Wadsworth Starbucks in Lakewood announced Tuesday that they’ve filed petitions with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to join Starbucks Workers United. These two locations are part of a 21-store push, spanning 14 states across the country.

“Across the country, management is cutting hours, writing inconsistent and unreliable schedules, and placing more and more work on fewer and fewer partners,” wrote workers in an open letter to Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan on Tuesday. “We ‘partners’ demand a say. We are the face of Starbucks.”

So far, fourteen Colorado stores have held union elections since the campaign began in 2021. Eleven of these stores ultimately voted to unionize, while two did not. One election is still pending.

Organizers are demanding wage increases, fairer scheduling and policies that address discrimination and harassment on the job. 

“Over the last few months we’ve been held to higher and higher sales expectations and haven’t received the support we need to meet those expectations,” said Juniper Krone, a Longmont barista of nearly two years, in a statement released by the unionizing workers. “Our hours have been cut, it’s become harder to get problems in the store addressed, and our pay rates haven’t kept pace with inflation. We hope that unionizing will help us get the consistency and support we need to do our jobs well.”

Tuesday’s coordinated effort marks the largest single day of filing since the pro-union campaign began in 2021.

“Around last October, our store was seriously struggling. We had lost at least a third of our crew, and morale had hit an all-time low,” said Lua Ward, a Lakewood barista, in the same statement. “Starbucks had been continuously pushing discounts and promotions on us, employees were being pressured into coming in sick, and our wait times grew longer and longer. We eventually decided that we had had enough, so we decided to unionize and stand up for ourselves so we can do our jobs without being exploited and overworked.”

Employees have accused the company of using illegal union-busting tactics to avoid negotiating a contract with union representatives. The growing national union includes over 9,500 baristas from nearly 400 stores.

“We disagree with claims that Starbucks engages in ‘union busting,’” said company spokesperson Andrew Trull. 

In more than fifty separate decisions, federal administrative law judges have found that Starbucks has committed over 400 violations of federal labor law, including dozens of unlawful firings, refusal to bargain, and denying benefits and wage increases to union members that are offered at non-union stores, according to a statement released by Starbucks Workers United.

An assessment that Starbucks commissioned to look into its practices around freedom of association and collective bargaining rights stated that the company has shown “consistent progress” since organizing began, including “strategic investments in a stronger governance process, more on-the-ground support, a dedicated labor relations team and more bespoke management training.”

“Following certification of fairly conducted elections, we’re committed to negotiating in good faith with the unions elected to represent our partners,” Trull said.

This story has been updated to clarify a statement from Starbucks about the third-party assessment.