May 20, 2022 - News

Buckhead Starbucks employees to vote on unionizing today

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Today, employees at a Berkeley Park Starbucks will decide whether to form a union to advocate for higher wages and better benefits.

  • It would be the first union at any of the java giant’s Atlanta stores.

Why it matters: The push by baristas here — and efforts by employees at the Cumberland Mall Apple store — are high-profile, early tests of metro Atlanta workers' appetite for organizing.

Catch up quick: In late January, employees at the Howell Mill Road Starbucks joined dozens of stores across the country looking to unionize.

The big picture: Starbucks’ starting pay and benefits have made it stand out among other businesses, but employees want a greater say in staffing numbers and salary increases.

What they’re saying: “We love to work at Starbucks, to be partners here, to be part of a community,” Page Smith, one of the Howell Mill Road employees and organizers, told the AJC. “But we feel strongly that we are not held in as much respect as we’d like to be.”

State of play: Georgia has a well-known and long-standing reputation as being friendly to business and not so friendly to labor.

  • Roughly 5% of Georgia workers are union members, and the state's right-to-work laws prohibit employers from requiring employees to join the union.

The other side: Starbucks is opposing the union efforts in Atlanta and elsewhere across the country, saying the company wants to work directly with employees on workplace and labor conditions.

  • Atlanta Starbucks employees say store managers, who aren't part of the unionization efforts, have read anti-labor statements to workers, the AJC reports.

Of note: Last month, a Starbucks in Augusta was the first Georgia location to unionize.

What’s next: A Starbucks on Piedmont Road is also in the process of forming a union. Earlier this month, employees at Starbucks’ Ansley Mall store announced plans to unionize.


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