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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Workers at State Street Starbucks win unionization election

Election follows weeks of ‘union busting’ within Madison store

The State Street Starbucks union organizers voted by a margin of 20 to two Thursday in favor of having Workers United represent them in the collective bargaining process.

Collective bargaining is a five-step process where parties debate and vote on contract proposals after a store votes to unionize, according to One Starbucks.

To win the vote, the store needed a majority of eligible partners who voted. The vote was held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday at the U.S. Federal Court by the Capitol. All eligible partners who worked at Starbucks before May 5 could vote in the election and the vote was certified by the National Labor Relations Board.


The store, which publicly announced their decision to seek unionization April 18, is now federally recognized and will join the same set of proposals that every other unionized Starbucks store has. At the time of the announcement, over 75% of the workers at the State Street location had signed Authorization for Representation cards — authorization documents that allow a union to negotiate terms and conditions on behalf of the employee. According to union organizer and shift supervisor Matthew Cartwright, support within the store for a union has only increased since.

State Street Starbucks becomes second Madison store to organize for union

Cartwright also said since the announcement to unionize, their district manager began visiting the store more consistently. This included conducting one-on-one with partners in the store and inviting the store manager to meetings off store premises.

According to the National Labor Relations Board, employees have the right to unionize and the right to refrain from doing so. The law states it is unlawful for an employer to “interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of their rights.”

“We at the store in Madison don’t like union busting and we don’t like being lied to and we don’t like illegal actions,” Cartwright said.

In an email statement to The Badger Herald, a Starbucks spokesperson said allegations of union busting made by union organizers at the State Street store in Madison are unfounded. Members of Starbucks’ Partner Relations team regularly visit stores in advance of union representation elections to “help ensure compliance with the complex patchwork of U.S. labor law and to share factual information, including voting logistics with partners.”

At those stores where our partners have chosen to petition for a union representation election, our focus is to ensure that they can trust the process is fair and their voice is heard,” the spokesperson said.

During the district manager’s visits, workers at the State Street location engaged in a “march on the boss” — a legally protected surprise meeting with the management of an establishment in which the workers presented a statement about their working conditions and a letter demanding she recognize the union.

The State Street store location follows both local and national trends of Starbucks workers moving to unionize. In March 2022, workers at the Capitol Square Starbucks location announced they would seek unionization. Starbucks stores in Wisconsin cities like Plover, Oak Creek and Green Bay have also sought union representation.

Cartwright said after the State Street location announced their decision to seek organization, Starbucks responded saying they would not voluntarily recognize the union. According to NPR, this is common among many private companies

We welcome the opportunity for partners at our State Street store to vote in a neutral, secret ballot election conducted by the NLRB — which allows all partners to make their own informed decision regarding union representation,” the Starbucks spokesperson said.

The Starbucks spokesperson said the workers at the State Street location filed for union representation under Workers United, which represents apparel, textile, commercial laundry, distribution, food service, hospitality, fitness and non-profit industries.

If partners elect Workers United as their exclusive bargaining representative, the union will then have to identify a bargaining representative for the store and send Starbucks an initial bargaining demand — which will include proposing a date and location for a first in-person contract bargaining session.

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The national efforts within Starbucks to unionize began in December 2022 in Buffalo, New York, when baristas voted to unionize. Over 350 Starbucks stores have since petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to hold union elections. Most recently, workers at a New Orleans store location won their unionization election in an 11 to five vote May 22.

But according to NPR, the process of collective bargaining that comes after winning a union election can take years. So far, no Starbucks stores that have held union elections have a contract in place.

According to The Badger Herald, State Street Starbucks has worked closely with the Capital Square location, who announced they would seek unionization in March 2022.

In Wisconsin, policies like Act 10 — legislation passed under former Republican Gov. Scott Walker — weakened the strength of public and private unions. Between 2011 and 2020, unionization fell by 35%.

The Associated Press reports unionization efforts have slowed, in part due to Starbucks’ response, which has included closing stores that unionize and firing pro-union workers. In interviews with The Badger Herald, Cartwright referenced “illegal actions” regarding unionization efforts.

The NLRB found Starbucks violated a federal labor law when they attempted to prevent a Starbucks in Buffalo, New York from unionizing. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz denied any unlawful actions taken against the store, according to Buffalo News.

According to the Starbucks spokesperson, there are policies in place at Starbucks to maintain a safe and welcoming environment, and that strictly prohibit any retaliatory behavior directed toward partners who are interested in a union.

“In the last year, Starbucks also launched a robust management training program and established a dedicated labor relations team for real-time counsel and to support management adherence to company policies and compliance with the complex patchwork of employment and labor law,” the spokesperson said.

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