SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — Workers at a Starbucks in Sarasota filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to unionize, according to a news release from Starbucks Workers United.
A letter, sent to CEO Laxman Narasimhan by employees at the store at Fruitville Road and Honore Avenue, cites “ineffective internal policies regarding working conditions, benefits, decreases in real wages, and sustainability” as reasons for the effort, according to the release.
The letter mentions a May 15 firing of a store manager “without any explanation and with a record without any corrective action.”
“We are led to believe, as partners still reeling under interim management, that our store manager was wrongfully dismissed for having a sympathetic ear to our justifiable workplace grievances and our growing inclination to achieve unionization,” the letter reads.
Workers said hours were slashed to reduce labor costs, positions have been left open and employees are overworked without any increase in pay.
“The reason we’ve decided to unionize lies in our working conditions,” barista Sydney Jamison said in a statement. “Most of our baristas are struggling to make ends meet and are actively losing their benefits.”
“By unionizing, we will establish a collective voice and we will raise that voice in defense of the partners who make the ‘Starbucks Experience,’ the safe and welcoming environment we take pride in, a reality,” the letter reads.
If the vote is successful, the location would join five other Florida locations that have unionized, according to Starbucks Workers United. None of the other unionized locations are in the Tampa Bay area.
Starbucks Workers United claimed Starbucks fired more than 200 union leaders nationwide.
At a congressional hearing in March, the company was accused of illegal union busting — allegations the company has denied. Late last year, workers at 100 stores across the county organized a three-day strike.
Starbucks has previously said it prefers to negotiate with employees directly, rather than unions, but respects employees’ right to protest.
“We believe that a direct relationship with our partners — where we have the flexibility to share success, as we always have — is the right path forward for our company, our partners and our customers,” a Starbucks spokesperson said in a statement to WFLA. “The leadership philosophy at Starbucks is when we exceed the expectations of our partners, they will in turn exceed the expectations of our customers. To that end, we have consistently offered our hourly partners the best benefits in the industry.”
“We welcome the opportunity for partners at our Fruitville Rd & Honore Ave store to vote in a neutral, secret ballot election conducted by the NLRB — which allows all partners to make their own decision regarding union representation,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson also addressed the allegations of cutting hours, saying “Partner work schedules are published on a regular, rolling basis three-weeks in advance and are built based on recorded partner availability and the unique operational needs of each store.”
The spokesperson said the company has made more than $1.4 billion in investments to improve experience for partners and stores.
“More than 97% of our partners at our more than 9,300 U.S. company-owned stores have chosen to maintain a direct employment relationship with Starbucks,” the spokesperson said. “We recognize that a subset of partners feel differently — and we respect their right to organize and engage in lawful union activities without fear of reprisal or retaliation.”