OVIEDO, Fla. – Workers at a Starbucks location in Oviedo are now voting on whether to unionize, joining a national labor movement that started in December when a New York location of the coffee chain became the first to organize.
The Starbucks store is located at 305 E. Mitchell Hammock Road, near the intersection with South Central Avenue. The workers there are looking to join Starbucks Workers United, the union that formed out of the Buffalo, New York, location.
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“Pretty much right when the news about (the) Buffalo store started circulating is when we started talking about it,” Roy Sistovaris said. “I would say that most of my coworkers are politically, civilly active so we all kind of knew about it. We started talking about this soon as everybody else knew.”
Sistovaris is a barista trainer at the Oviedo location who has been with the company for about 4 years. He has been leading the unionization efforts at the store.
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“I didn’t really expect anybody else to really step up and do it because the people who were really talking about it have been with Starbucks for like 8 years, (who) envision a future with the company longer than I do,” Sistovaris said. “I’m a college student. I’m graduating soon and customer service is not the field that I’m going to be going into, career-wise, so if anybody’s going to take the fall for this — experience retaliation — I would rather it be me than someone who’s really trying to move forward with the company.”
The workers at the Oviedo store sent a letter of intent in March to Starbucks Workers United for their unionization efforts.
The letter reads, in part: “We have been energized and inspired by the efforts and demonstrations across the nation — from Buffalo to the Seattle Roastery to stores right here in Florida — to make our workplace better. If Starbucks is really to be a second place for us, we must ensure that our voices and concerns are truly heard and taken seriously by higher management.”
The E Mitchell Hammock and City Plaza store in Oviedo, Florida is organizing a union!— SBWorkersUnited (@SBWorkersUnited) March 5, 2022
“We love our store. We love our manager. We love this company. Together, we can make Starbucks so
much more than it currently is.” — Oviedo organizing committee pic.twitter.com/Lh6VOCwIYB
The letter points out that the workers’ grievances are not with their direct management, but with the corporate environment within which they work.
“Our store manager is really great,” Sistovaris said. “She’s really empathetic. She gets what we’re talking about.”
However, the union organizer did point out that higher management has been conducting “captive audience meetings” and “union-busting tactics.”
News 6 reached out to Starbucks for comment on the Sistovaris’ accusations.
The company said, in part: “We are listening and learning from the partners in these stores, as we always do across the country. Starbucks’ success—past, present, and future—is built on how we partner together, always with Our Mission and Values at our core. We’ve been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us, and that conviction has not changed.”
Sistovaris said the workers in Oviedo have a number of issues with the corporation, including but not limited to issues with low wages and the brand’s “the customer is always right policy.”
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“I worked in those first few weeks of the pandemic when nobody really knew what was going on,” Sistovaris said. “And the way that the customers treated us — despite us providing that like essential service, right, calling us essential workers — was just absolutely atrocious. And if anything corporate has just rewarded their behavior towards us.”
Sistovaris recounted stories of customers calling Starbucks workers slurs or becoming violent toward them, including throwing hot coffee onto employees.
“I’ve had people throw like their trash at me like from their car,” he said. “So Starbucks’ response has been — (the customer) basically gets sent to the district manager or whatever manager, and basically, they (the managers) have to be like, ‘Oh, we’re so sorry. You know, we’re gonna make that moment right for you.’ And they basically give them a gift card.”
The workers are now casting their votes by mail as to whether they will unionize, sending their ballots to the National Labor Relations Board.
The votes will be read on June 9. If everything goes to plan, the work of collective bargaining then gets underway.
“There obviously has to be time to get a consensus amongst all the workers of like, ‘Hey, who’s going to represent us? What do we want?’ You have to give out surveys so that we make sure we’re on the same page, or we are representing everybody’s interests,” Sistovaris said.
After the vote, the process of bargaining with Starbucks corporate begins, which will be a long process.
At least 85 of Starbucks’ 9,000 company-run U.S. stores — representing 7,444 workers — have voted to unionize since December, according to the National Labor Relations Board, and at least 10 stores have rejected the union. Many more elections are coming; at least 268 stores across the U.S. have petitioned the NLRB to hold union elections.
The labor board says it has officially certified 64 of those 85 elections, which means Starbucks must begin bargaining with the union at those stores. So far, just three — two in Buffalo, New York, and one in Mesa, Arizona — have begun the process; many others are talking to Starbucks about dates to begin negotiating, according to Workers United, which represents the unionized stores.
You can read Starbucks’ full response to News 6 below:
“We are listening and learning from the partners in these stores, as we always do across the country. Starbucks success—past, present, and future—is built on how we partner together, always with Our Mission and Values at our core.
We’ve been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us, and that conviction has not changed.
As Howard recently shared in a letter to partners, “We will become the best version of Starbucks by co-creating our future directly as partners. And we will strengthen the Starbucks community by upholding each other’s dreams; upholding the standards and rituals of the company; celebrating partner individuality and voice; and upholding behaviors of mutual respect and dignity.’”
Rossann Williams, evp and president, North America, has also shared with our partners that we respect their right to organize and will bargain in good faith.
She also noted in a letter sent to all partners in that “the vote outcomes will not change our shared purpose or how we will show up for each other. … We will keep listening, we will keep connecting and we will keep being in service of one another because that’s what we’ve always done and what it means to be partner.”
As for wages and partner satisfaction, please see the below background information:
In October, Starbucks announced a wave of investments for our partners, building on our 50-year history and tradition of listening and learning, while investing our success back into our people. Building on substantial wage and benefit investments throughout the pandemic, Starbucks is prioritizing another significant investment to recognize and reward tenured partners while also ensuring all partners earn at least $15/hour by Summer 2022.
This next investment culminates a total of approximately $1 billion in incremental investments in annual wages and benefits over the last two years.
Effective as of late January 2022, partners with two or more years of service received up to a 5% raise and partners with five or more years received up to a 10% raise.
Additionally, in August 2022, average pay for all U.S. hourly partners will be nearly $17/hr.
- In December 2020, Starbucks committed to raising its wage floor to $15/hr.
- Hourly rates will range based on market and tenure from $15 to $23/ hr. across the country in Summer 2022.
Finally, to improve on the store experience – with significant customer demand for Starbucks and an increasing pace of beverage innovation, Starbucks has invested in forecasting capabilities to improve store staffing; testing of a “shifts app” aiming to make it easier for partners to work available shifts that meets their personal needs; and improving behind the bar floor design and equipment, including testing a Cold Beverage Station in select stores around the country.
A team of support partners and data analysts, as well as a Store Manager Council, are working side by side with our store partners to help shape this work.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.