BOONE, N.C. — Partners at a Starbucks location in Boone have reportedly voted overwhelmingly in favor of unionizing, becoming the first store in the Carolinas and in the Tar Heel State to have a certified union.
In a statement shared on Saturday, Starbucks United Boone announced members at the Blowing Rock Road location voted 33-2 in favor of unionizing. The union said partners formally declared intent to join the nationwide Starbucks Workers United movement on April 4, with votes in an election finalized on April 30.
"We first want to extend our deepest gratitude to our friends and neighbors for providing us with invaluable support throughout this process," part of the statement read. "To our Boone community- your displays of solidarity, your supportive words, your belief in us, and your willingness to stand with us has done more for our team and for this movement than we can convey. Additionally, thank you to all our partners for working to stand up for what they believe in, for exercising their right to vote, and for committing an unbelievable amount of time and dedication to this process."
The growing push for stores to unionize comes amidst a wave of pro-unionization activity across the country, including at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York. Companies like Amazon and Starbucks have tried to repel these efforts.
The Boone location appears to be the first store to see workers unionize in the Carolinas, and others in both North Carolina and South Carolina are joining the effort too; one location in Raleigh saw baristas file for a union election on Feb. 15, 2022 per Indy Week. In South Carolina, the Post and Courier newspaper reports three locations had open petitions to unionize as recently as April 25. And earlier in April, workers at the Starbucks on North Tryon Street in Charlotte's University area rallied for unionization, gaining praise from local and state politicians.
Olivia Lewis, who works at the Boone location, told WCNC the next steps include forming a bargaining committee, which will go through bargaining training, and sit down with a representative from the company. Lewis said, "We've been working with Starbucks Workers United, who was backed by Workers United. But they've been creating kind of a baseline of things that we'll be asking for in our contract, to create some consistency across the country with Starbucks unions in general. But from there, we're able to tweak things here and there to better fit the specifics of our store."
Another employee at the Boone Starbucks, Rachel Eakes, said she's looking forward to the bargaining process.
"Credit card tipping is one thing that we are fighting for across the board, to make sure that people can tip their baristas on credit cards, because right now that's not available," she said, adding employees want more labor hours and better pay.
Both Lewis and Eakes agreed that COVID played a part in getting talks of organizing in motion.
"Talking to my co workers who have been with the company for years and saw the way they handled the pandemic, and some people who actually quit during the pandemic," Eakes said.
"Things have gotten to a point, we've started to realize that we deserve better, just all across the board all across the country, and not just in our franchise either," Lewis added. "Realizing that we deserve better, and we actually have the power to change that if we just band together."
Lewis said the group appreciates the benefits provided by Starbucks but it's not enough to make ends meet.
"The analogy that I constantly use is that, if you and I are neighbors, and we each have a gallon of water to make it through the month and that's for cooking cleaning, washing, etc. One gallon for the whole month. And obviously, that's not enough water for either of us to survive. And let's say that one day, the town comes to you, and they're like, 'We see that you're struggling. So we're gonna give you extra gallon of water every single month.' So you now have more than I do, but two gallons of water is still not enough to make it through the month,"
she explained. "So again, you can be doing better than someone else and still not have enough, the amount of benefits that Starbucks gives us doesn't speak to how well off we are, it only speaks to how well or how worse off other people are, and how much more other people deserve as well."
WCNC Charlotte has reached out to Starbucks' corporate press liaisons for a response to the election. This article will be updated when and if a response is received.