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ABQ Starbucks files petition to unionize

Jacob Sherwood, a Starbucks barista in Rio Grande and Interstate 40, is part of an organizing group that filed a petition on Monday that could lead to possible unionization of the cafe’s 31 employees. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Jacob Sherwood has been a barista at Starbucks on Rio Grande and on Interstate 40 since October, and he says it’s constantly busy.

Most of the time, he says, the cafe is understaffed and employees feel overworked.

Sherwood and five of his co-workers began the process to make his store the first Starbucks in New Mexico to unionize — an effort to provide employees with better pay and stronger health care benefits.

The organizing group filed a petition on Monday with the help of the Western United States Regional Joint Labor Commission.

Workers United deputy director Evelyn Zepeda confirmed the petition had been filed, although the case has not yet been scheduled for the National Labor Relations Board.

“I think it’s just about trying to help our store and help our partners achieve the life or outcome they want from their work,” said Sherwood, 21.

A Starbucks spokesperson said the company will follow the NLRB process.

“We are listening and learning from these store partners as we always do across the country,” a Starbucks spokesperson told the Journal. “From the beginning, we have been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, with no union between us, and that belief has not changed.”

The local Starbucks joins more than 300 Starbucks stores across the country that have unionized or are in the process of unionizing, according to Starbucks Workers United.

A union spokesperson said more than 4,000 Starbucks employees in 35 states have now joined Starbucks Workers United and more than 4,700 workers are organizing their store.

Unionization at Starbucks locations began last December when a store in Buffalo, New York, successfully voted to unionize.

At the heart of a potential unionization for the local Starbucks, Sherwood said, is a desire for expanded benefits and job security. However, a detailed list of requests has not yet been established.

Sherwood said the local Starbucks, which is open from 4:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, is one of the busiest in the state with customers lining up nearly every hour of the day. He said it is common practice for two employees to leave their shifts to be replaced by one, which creates pressure on workers there.

“I can tell you that we all feel like we’re understaffed,” he said. “It’s really tough and difficult to manage that kind of volume of people.”

Sherwood said colleagues have noticed staffing levels at the Rio Grande location are similar to other Starbucks, despite having higher traffic than most other locations in the city.

The local organizing group recently sent a letter to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz saying workers are facing cutbacks, lack of job security, understaffed shifts and unlivable wages at the same time as “annual profits reach billions of dollars”.

Starting pay is $12 an hour at Starbucks near Old Town, and workers have access to health and dental benefits, paid time off and free drinks, Sherwood said.

Starbucks said in May it planned to move all US employees to $15 an hour starting Aug. 1, but Sherwood said the increase was not enough given the rising cost of living. over the past few months.

“We just want to be able to at least make a decent living and get by without worrying about ‘Can I buy food this week? It’s rent week, will I be able to afford gas and all these other things? things I need?” he said.

Workers will vote on whether to unionize in a few months, Sherwood said. Unionization occurs if at least 70% of the store’s 31 employees vote in favor, he added.

As workers wait to vote on unionization, Sherwood said other workers at union sites told him to expect visits from senior Starbucks officials.

“It’s going to be a propaganda war between the Starbucks corporation and us trying to… let our co-workers know what the union can do for us,” he said.