Starbucks workers at two Jacksonville locations receiving ballots for union vote

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — They’re there to greet you when you swing by for your morning cup of coffee, but some workers at two local Starbucks say they’re overworked and underpaid.

They say it goes against Starbucks’ culture of fostering a partnership with their employees because it feels like a one-sided ordeal. So, they’re taking steps to change that by filing for union recognition to have more say in the company — all in an industry where unionizing is rare. It’s a move that more than 100 locations nationwide have joined.

“I definitely want to see us have a seat at the table,” said Mason Boykin who has been a proud Starbucks partner for three years. “This is honestly the best job I’ve ever had,” he said. “The opportunity that Starbucks has given me as a trans person,” he pointed out. “The respect that I get here and the dignity.”

Except the pandemic began to change that, with major turnover and staffing problems.

“I’ve noticed a lot of heartache from the company,” Boykin explained. “We’re fighting for wage increases here,” he said. “I have a lot of partners that don’t even know when they’re gonna eat next because they’re making 12 dollars an hour.”

In February, we told you the San Jose Boulevard location (11441 San Jose Blvd) filed a letter for union recognition, with more than 70 percent of partners signing in support.

RELATED: Starbucks location in Jacksonville joins nationwide unionization push

The Starbucks location in San Marco has joined those efforts too. Now, both have less than a month to submit these ballots.

The National Labor Relations Board needs a simple majority of 50 percent plus one to recognize the union.

Boykin says he hopes this will help redefine the partnership he cherishes.

“I just want to make it better, you know,” he said. Action News Jax reached out to Starbucks to respond to these votes.

A spokesperson, Sarah, sent me the following response via e-mail: “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.

In a recent letter to Starbucks’ partners, Rossann Williams, president and EVP of Starbucks North America said, “the vote outcomes will not change our shared purpose or how we will show up for each other … We will keep listening, we will keep connecting and we will keep being in service of one another because that’s what we’ve always done and what it means to be partner.”

On March 16 Starbucks announced that its CEO of five years, Kevin Johnson, was retiring. The company tapped Howard Schultz to serve as interim CEO.

In a letter titled “Restoring the trust and belief of our partners,” Schultz wrote, “We will become the best version of Starbucks by co-creating our future directly as partners. And we will strengthen the Starbucks community by upholding each other’s dreams; upholding the standards and rituals of the company; celebrating partner individuality and voice; and upholding behaviors of mutual respect and dignity.”

The National Labor Relations Board has a deadline of May 10th to get all these ballots in. If it’s a yes, the union will form a bargaining committee to begin negotiations with Starbucks on issues like salaries. If it’s a no, these workers will have to wait six months before voting again.

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