Starbucks Workers on Bloomington’s Eastside Unanimously Vote to Join Union

BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – AUGUST 8: Eastside Bloomington Starbucks workers react after voting to unionize at 115 IN-46 bypass location on August 8, 2023, in Bloomington, Indiana. The workers voted 14-0 to join Starbucks Workers United. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)

Staff report

Bloomington, Ind. – August 8, 2023

Workers at the Starbucks located on Bloomington’s Eastside voted unanimously 14-0 to join the Starbucks Workers United union on Tuesday, according to statements from the workers themselves.

Stefanie Sharp, a Starbucks worker, expressed her excitement after the vote, stating, “We just had our union election, we won 14 to zero. And we’re just really excited that now we have a chance to fight for a fair contract and actually get the things that we need to live, you know, we need to be able to pay our own rent, which with our fluctuations in the past has been a questionable thing to achieve.”

The voting process was conducted meticulously, as outlined by a worker who participated in the process. “There were two workers. One was a witness for the company, and the other was a witness for the union. And each of our workers came in there to vote. And in a secret election too, and then they put their votes in the ballot box. And just now whenever they counted all of their votes, they mixed up all the votes to make sure … it will truly be secret. And then the government officially opened all the ballots, counted them, and then tallied them and we won 14 to zero,” the worker explained.

The journey towards unionization was a well-organized effort that spanned several months. Charlie Graham, one of the workers involved in the process, shared, “We got people on an organizing committee to reach out to our other co-workers, basically map out who was in support, who wasn’t. And eventually, we signed cards back in, I think, early June. And we just kept up the organizing the whole time, communicating with people telling them why they should vote for the union, asking them what their problems at work were, and seeing what they thought we could do to solve that. And once you ask those questions, there’s pretty much only one answer. And that’s forming a union.”

While the management’s response to the unionization efforts was reportedly mild, there was some opposition in the form of anti-union flyers placed in an employee area. Graham noted that these flyers contained assertions about avoiding third-party interference and misinterpretations of labor laws. Despite such challenges, the commitment workers joined the union.

In terms of customer support, Graham emphasized that respectful interactions make a difference. “We love it when customers come in, and they just are nice. They treat us with respect. I mean, that’s one of the big things that we, you know, are kind of wanting, just respecting customers, and respecting the community.”

The Starbucks workers also highlighted the impact of their actions even before officially forming a union. Graham recounted, “So what happened a couple months ago in June was they took down our pride flag that one of our co-workers had put up on the back door in a cafe. And we sort of took a pretty immediate direct action against that… And we’re just super thankful that management was able to listen to our concerns that time. And we were able to show the power of direct action and the union work even before we had actually won officially.”

In conclusion, Graham expressed a broader sentiment, stating, “This is a union summer, but lots of strikes and organizations happening all over the country. And it shouldn’t stop. Everybody needs a union, not just Starbucks workers, not just retail workers, not just actors and writers and Teamsters. Everybody needs a union, and the fight to get a union like we want today is worth doing.”

BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA – AUGUST 8: Eastside Bloomington Starbucks at 115 IN-46 bypass is closed temporarily for a meeting Tuesday as workers vote whether or not to join a union on August 8, 2023, in Bloomington, Indiana. The workers voted 14-0 to join Starbucks Workers United. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)

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