West Allis Starbucks workers seek unionization

By: - June 15, 2022 4:23 pm
A Starbucks Coffee location in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo | Isiah Holmes)

A Starbucks Coffee location in Madison, Wisconsin. (Isiah Holmes | Wisconsin Examiner)

Workers at a Starbucks cafe in West Allis have taken a step towards unionization by petitioning the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for an election. The workers, who issued the demand Tuesday morning, are asking for union recognition from CEO Howard Schultz and local management. A large majority of workers at the store, located at Hwy 100 and National Avenue, signed union authorization cards and a petition demanding unionization, according to Workers United.

This would mark the second instance in the Milwaukee-area, and the fifth in Wisconsin, of baristas joining the Starbucks Workers United movement. Workers in hundreds of Starbucks locations across the country have filed for elections and have won representation at more than 100 of them including at a cafe in Oak Creek. Workers in Madison, Monona, and Fitchburg, have also joined the workers’ movement. Separately, Colectivo cafe workers in the Riverwest neighborhood of Milwaukee unionized their store this year.

In a letter signed by a majority of the West Allis Starbuck store’s workers to CEO Kevin Johnson, the staff noted they’re not going to let the matter go. “Our desire to unionize goes beyond our personal gain, beyond our store, and even beyond our company,” it reads. “The standard business model for multi-billion dollar corporations allowed for CEO’s to make over 300 times that of the average worker. And though Starbucks offers a wage over the average amount for the American worker, this amount is not enough. The minimum wage, if adjusted for productivity, should be over $20 per hour. Partners are struggling to get by, and the company has the means to give us what we deserve.”

Workers United International Vice President Kathy Hanshew voiced her support for the workers. “Starbucks is a multimillion dollar corporation that tries to pride itself on working in partnership with its employees, all while silencing the workers and denying them their right to union representation and a collective voice,” said Hanshew. “Starbucks calls its employees ‘partners’, but it is abundantly clear that this so-called partnership is one of convenience for the company, that leaves many employee concerns unheard. It is time for Starbucks to do the right thing, acknowledge the voice of their ‘partners’, and allow their workers to unionize without interference.”


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Isiah Holmes
Isiah Holmes

Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, the Progressive Magazine, Al Jazeera, and other outlets. He was also featured in the 2018 documentary The Chase Key, and was the recipient of the Sierra Club Great Waters Group 2021 Environmental Hero of the Year award. The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council also awarded Holmes its 2021-2022 Media Openness Award for using the open records laws for investigative journalism. Holmes was also a finalist in the 2021 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards alongside the rest of the Wisconsin Examiner's staff. The Silver, or second place, award for Best Online Coverage of News was awarded to Holmes and his colleague Henry Redman for an investigative series into how police responded to the civil unrest and protests in Kenosha during 2020. Holmes was also awarded the Press Club's Silver (second-place) award for Public Service Journalism for articles focusing on police surveillance in Wisconsin.