Starbucks workers win an election in Baltimore, two in Metro D.C.
Starbucks workers in Falls Church, Va. | Twitter feed Maryland-Virginia Regional Joint Board of Workers United

BALTIMORE—The ever-accelerating drive to unionize exploited Starbucks baristas has notched its first win in Baltimore and its first two wins in the Washington, D.C., metro area, too. And it’s not done.

The Baltimore win on April 25 at the Starbucks at 1209 North Charles Street downtown was 14-0 among 22 eligible workers, the Baltimore Sun reported. It was Starbucks Workers United’s first win in Maryland. Mailed-in ballots from workers at a second store, on Nursery Road in Linthicum, will be counted on May 10.

The Virginia victories, both in the D.C. suburbs, were back-to-back: April 22 in Falls Church, 30-2, and April 23 in Leesburg’s East Market Starbucks, 24-1. “That’s the tweet!” the Falls Church workers exulted. Another Metro D.C. win may follow, when an election is set among workers at the Starbucks store on Georgia Avenue between Norbeck and Olney, Md.

And on April 26, Starbucks workers in Hopewell, N.J., went union, 15-1. The store’s district manager got so angry he threw congratulatory notes from community residents, which they posted on the store bulletin board, into the trash, the Democratic Socialists tweeted.

In all the campaigns, the workers took the lead, with the aid of Workers United, a Service Employees sector. There are now organizing drives in more than 200 Starbucks stores nationwide, with wins in 31 in just the few months since the first victory, in Buffalo, N.Y.

Besides the Baltimore and Virginia wins, and the Linthicum vote, Starbucks Workers United filed election petitions at three other Baltimore-area stores: Stevensville, Bel Air, and Nottingham, WBAL-TV added. The reasons for the wins, according to letters from the worker-organizers to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson in Seattle, were similar.

“We make Starbucks products for less than living wages and none of the profit, while being offered benefits that in no way equal our efforts,” the Charles Street workers wrote. “We suffer abuse from customers, malfunctioning equipment, unsafe working conditions, chronic understaffing, and a complete lack of agency.

“Far too many of us have spent our careers as baristas and shift supervisors deteriorating mentally and physically,” the workers added. Starbucks not only doesn’t deal with that stress but also doesn’t realize that in a city with ever-rising housing prices, Starbucks stores are one of the few places of refuge for the homeless.

The Olney workers’ letter, signed by five of that store’s 13 employees, was similar.

“We have grown increasingly exhausted and stressed” because of the coronavirus pandemic’s impact, they wrote. “We are tired.” They told Schultz of layoffs and customers angered when coffee or food is unavailable. But when they took their complaints to the store manager and the company’s district manager, their words “fell on deaf ears.”

PAI marketer Janet Brown contributed material for this story.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.