Starbucks Workers Vote to Unionize at 5 Virginia Stores

By Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts is a reporter currently based in Turkey. She covers news and business for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on the United States.
April 20, 2022 Updated: April 21, 2022

The union representing Starbucks Corp. workers has won elections at five stores in and around Richmond, Virginia, it announced on April 19, marking yet another victory for labor activists.

The store on Forest Hill Avenue became the first Richmond location to vote to unionize after workers at the store voted 17–1 in favor of the union, Starbucks Workers United said.

Four other nearby Starbucks locations followed suit: Midlothian Turnpike and Carmia Way, which voted 22–3 in favor of unionization; Huguenot Road, which voted 11–2 in favor; Westchester Commons, which voted 13-8 in favor; and Willow Lawn Drive, which voted unanimously in favor, the union said.

Ballots were mailed to workers at the five stores on March 29, and the votes were counted at the National Labor Relations Board office in Baltimore on April 19, WRIC ABC 8News reported.

A Starbucks spokesperson told The Epoch Times: “As we have said throughout, we will respect the process and will bargain in good faith guided by our principles. We hope that the union does the same.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) congratulated the unionization wins after they were announced, writing on Twitter: “The movement of workers demanding dignity on the job wins again! Congratulations to Starbucks workers in Richmond on your vote to unionize!”

Sanders, who is set to make an appearance in Richmond on April 24 at the Unity Fest—an event to celebrate and support the organizing efforts of Starbucks workers both locally and nationally—added: “I will see you Sunday!”

A string of Starbucks stores across the United States have voted to unionize in recent months, including one in Knoxville, Tennessee, in March 2022, after the first corporate store voted to unionize in Buffalo, New York, in December 2021.

Other stores in Arizona and in Seattle, Washington—where Starbucks is headquartered—as well as a dozen other states have also filed for union elections.

Starbucks has nearly 9,000 stores nationwide.

The union push comes amid complaints from workers at Starbucks stores over increased workload, further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and a surge in mobile orders.

Employees have also called for more say in how the stores are managed and how the technology for mobile orders is used, while union organizers want better training and staffing as well as improved pay.

In October 2021, Starbucks announced it was increasing wages for U.S. hourly employees and that by the summer of 2022, those hourly employees would average nearly $17 an hour, with a new range of $15 to $23 an hour for baristas.

The company said it was also making further investments in employee training.

After workers at a Seattle Starbucks store voted unanimously on March 22 to unionize, a Starbucks spokesperson provided an emailed statement to The Epoch Times.

“We are listening and learning from the partners in these stores as we always do across the country,” the company stated. “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.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall union membership in the United States declined by 0.5 percentage points to 10.3 percent in 2021, marking a return to the 2019 rate.

Katabella Roberts is a reporter currently based in Turkey. She covers news and business for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on the United States.