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Two Los Angeles Area Starbucks Locations Could Be the Next to Unionize

A Long Beach and Covina shop both moved forward with a vote to unionize this month, joining a nationwide wave

In this photo illustration the Starbucks logo seen in the... Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Mona Holmes is a reporter for Eater Los Angeles and a regular contributor to KCRW radio. She has covered restaurants, dining, and food culture since 2016. In 2022, the James Beard Foundation nominated her for a Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award.

Employees at two Southern California Starbucks locations initiated a vote to form a union this week, with employees seeking to improve working conditions at the internationally-known coffee shops. Workers at the locations — at Redondo and Seventh Street in Long Beach, and at Rowland and Citrus Ave. in Covina — sent a letter to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz outlining their intent to form a union that, if approved, could have sweeping effects for other unionization efforts at corporate restaurants in Southern California. At the very least, they would become the region’s first unionized Starbucks.

Since December, Starbucks workers across the country say that they have been challenging low pay and difficult working conditions. Add on more than two years of increased customer volume throughout the pandemic, talk of minimal benefits, and an increased cost of living (plus similar union movements at Chipotle and McDonald’s), and it’s easy to understand the current wave of unionization that’s spreading throughout the country. Within a five month period, 40 unionized Starbucks have formed nationally.

The massive coffee company has been perceived as being particularly friendly to the union effort, with organizers claiming that Starbucks is deeply engaged in union-busting practices. Starbucks management encouraged employees to vote against unionization; they filed complaints against the union with the National Labor Relations Board; and they have allegedly fired workers involved with union organizing.

Earlier this month, a meeting between Schultz and Long Beach Starbucks workers took on a tense tone. Long Beach Starbucks employees and Schultz met at the Long Beach Airport, which started with a videotaped speech by Schultz from early April that criticized Starbucks Workers United, reports the New York Post. During a Q&A session, barista Madison Hall — who is leading the union effort for that location — asked Schultz about reports that Starbucks fired employees who participated in union organizing. Hall said that Schultz cut her off and responded with the following, “If you hate Starbucks so much, why don’t you go somewhere else?”

The Long Beach location should have voting results by mid-May, reports NBC-4. Covina Starbucks workers say that votes are scheduled in the next four to six weeks. Long Beach mayor Robert Garcia expressed his worker support with a tweet.