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Louisville Starbucks workers become chain’s first in Kentucky to unionize

Workers at Louisville Starbucks announced their intent to unionize on Monday.
Khadeeja Yasser via Unsplash
Workers at Louisville Starbucks announced their intent to unionize on Monday.

On Thursday, employees at a Louisville Starbucks became the chain’s first workers at a corporate-owned store in Kentucky to form a union. They’re part of a national movement by workers at the coffee giant’s stores seeking collective bargaining power.

A majority of the employees at the Starbucks who voted were in favor of being represented by the union Workers United following a monthlong election. They voted 19-5 in favor of the union, with additional two ballots contested on the basis of the voters’ eligibility.

In March, workers at the East End store on Factory Lane filed a petition to unionize with the National Labor Relations Board. Among their motivations for organizing were to negotiate for better pay and improved health care options.

Emerson Mays, a barista at the store, said she hopes Thursday’s result will be a catalyst for other local union efforts.

“I hope this just makes other workers like us understand that we are the ones with the power, and there’s strength in numbers,” she said.

Shift supervisor Fern Potter said the organizing workers’ victory fits into a larger national picture.

“There’s a growing labor movement countrywide, and we're just getting started with all this,” they said.

A representative for Starbucks corporate said in a statement Thursday the company "will respect the process and will bargain in good faith," while pointing to an older statement in which it said "we’ve been clear in our belief that we do not want a union between us as partners, and that conviction has not changed."

An increasing number of Starbucks stores across the U.S. are seeking union elections. More than 250 stores have filed for elections with the National Labor Relations Board since August 2021, with over 30 in the past month.

This story has been updated to include comment from a representative for Starbucks.

Jacob is LPM's Business and Development Reporter. Email Jacob at jmunoz@lpm.org.

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