Encinitas Starbucks store first to unionize in San Diego County
Nationally, more than 315 Starbucks stores have won union election, according to the Workers United labor union.
Seeking better working conditions at their high-volume store, employees at the Encinitas Starbucks location at Leucadia Boulevard and Interstate 5 have successfully unionized.
Friday, May 19, store employees voted 21-2 in favor of joining the Workers United Upstate labor union. The store is the first Starbucks location in San Diego County to unionize, said Melissa Palominos, who is a spokesperson for Workers United. Nationally, more than 315 Starbucks stores have won union elections, Palominos said.
The organization effort came after management cut back the number of staffers working during any given shift, said Denika Brown, a 26-year-old barista who works at the busy drive-thru Encinitas Starbucks store at 905 Orpheus Ave.
“A lot of us haven’t had time to take a break, or even go to the bathroom,” Brown said. “Our store is the busiest store in North County. We just don’t have time. We can’t get health and safety tests done because we’re just bombarded with things to do, and you don’t have anyone to help you.”
The local store’s action is part of a nationwide movement, started in 2021, among some Starbucks employees, called partners, to organize for higher wages and better benefits. The Starbucks Workers United collective is, as identified in a proposal posted to the group’s website, seeking better base pay with guaranteed annual raises, just-cause termination, 100 percent employer-paid health care for full- and part-time workers, transgender benefits coverage, consistent schedules and faster accrual of vacation time, among other things.
Specifically, the group said it wants base pay of $20 per hour for baristas and $25.40 per hour for shift supervisors, with higher wages for workers in higher-cost regions. The proposal also calls for 5 percent annual raises, cost-of-living increases and seniority raises.
Starbucks Workers United is seeking a national framework of agreements, although to date none of the unionized stores have been able to negotiate a contract with the corporation. The labor union has set up bargaining sessions with Starbucks, but the company refuses to negotiate in good faith, and has also tried to intimidate or retaliate against workers, Palominos said, citing judgments by the National Labor Relations Board.
The coffee corporation said, through a spokesperson, that it has proposed more than 420 single-store bargaining sessions and has appeared in person at more than 105 sets of negotiations.
“We’ve been clear in our belief that we can achieve more together by working side-by-side with our partners. As a result of the direct employment relationship preferred by more than 97 percent of our partners, we continue to work to reinvent and improve the Starbucks experience,” Starbucks spokesperson Andrew Trull said. “We’re aware that a subset of partners feel differently, and we respect their right to organize and to engage in lawful union activities. 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 company, Trull said, has increased wages for its US workers, now paying on average $17.50 per hour, as well as rolled out a way for customers to tip on credit and debit card transactions. Other initiatives include an employee savings program, a student loan debt program and faster accrual of sick time, the spokesperson said.
Even without a contract, the unionized Encinitas store employees are afforded some additional protections, including the right to have a union representative at any meeting that could result in disciplinary action.
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