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Starbucks workers in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood become first to unionize on the West Coast

The move makes the Starbucks store the seventh to unionize in the country.

SEATTLE — Starbucks employees in the Capitol Hill neighborhood became the first to unionize in Seattle.

Workers at the Broadway and Denny location also became the first to unionize on the West Coast. 

The store in the Capitol Hill neighborhood becomes the seventh in the country where employees have voted in favor of unionizing with Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union.  

Employee Sydney Durkin said it's been three months of waiting.

"It's emotional just to see it finally all come together, all of our hard work" Durkin said. 

The vote follows a larger effort in the greater Seattle area and across the nation to hold union elections. At least 140 more stores in 27 states have filed petitions for union elections. 

"We are listening and learning from the partners in these stores as we always do across the country. From the beginning, 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," a Starbucks spokesperson told KING 5 on Wednesday.

The first-ever Starbucks union was formed at a Buffalo, New York location in December of 2021.

Starbucks previously announced it would negotiate in good faith with workers who agreed to unionize. In a bargain letter sent to all U.S. partners, Executive Vice President Rossann Williams said that the company hasn’t wanted unionization but respects the legal process and wants to work with those in Buffalo who voted in favor of union representation.

Meanwhile, Starbucks announced on March 16 that CEO Kevin Johnson was retiring. The company picked former longtime CEO Schultz as interim leader until it finds a permanent replacement by this fall. In his previous time with the company, the 68-year-old Schultz successfully fought attempts to unionize Starbucks’ U.S. stores and roasting plants.

In a November letter to employees, posted just before the first unionization votes at three stores in Buffalo, New York, Schultz said he tried to create the kind of company that his blue-collar father never had the chance to work for.

He recalled the “traumatic moment” his family had no income after his father suffered a workplace injury, and said that’s why Starbucks has benefits like health care, free college tuition, parental leave and stock grants for employees.

Starbucks had to reinstate fired workers or pay to settle labor law violations numerous times in the early 2000s.

Last year, the national labor board found that Starbucks unlawfully retaliated against two Philadelphia baristas who were trying to unionize. The board said Starbucks monitored the employees’ social media, unlawfully spied on their conversations and then fired them. It ordered Starbucks to stop interfering with workers’ right to organize and offer reinstatement to the two workers.

Last week, the board issued a complaint against Starbucks alleging that district and store managers in Phoenix spied on and threatened workers who supported unionizing. The complaint says Starbucks suspended one union supporter and fired another.

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