Tucson Starbucks Latest to Unionize in Arizona

Tucson Starbucks Latest to Unionize in Arizona

By Corinne Murdock |

The first Starbucks in Tucson unionized on Thursday in a 11-3 vote, the first in Pima County and the fifth in the state. 

In an April letter announcing unionization intent with Starbucks Workers United (SBWU), 10 of the Tucson Starbucks workers said that unions were the only option for an ideal work environment. The words “partner” and “partnership” were brought up frequently. 

“We do not see unions as an assault on Starbucks. Rather, we see unions as a symbol of both our love for the company and as an opportunity for partners to prosper alongside Starbucks moving forward,” wrote the workers. 

The University of Arizona (UArizona) neighbor succeeded where two other stores’ unionization efforts failed earlier this year: one in Chandler, Arizona by a 1-9 vote taken last month, and another in Phoenix by a narrow 6-8 vote in May (though seven ballots were challenged and the official outcome is to be determined). 

The following Arizona stores are unionized: in Mesa, the Power & Baseline Road and Crimson & Southern locations; and in Phoenix, the 7th Street & Bell location. The 7th & Roosevelt location in Phoenix filed to unionize and will take a vote next Friday. 

Nationwide, 310 stores in 35 states filed to unionize. 186 of those stores won union elections. The nationwide unionization efforts have succeeded rapidly since the first Starbucks union formed last December in New York. 

SWBU insists that coffee shop employees are overworked and underpaid, and often face issues like understaffing. Arizona Starbucks’ minimum wage sits around $14 an hour. Nationwide, that average sits around $17 an hour. 

“We know what it’s like to be understaffed and overworked, on our feet for hours at a time, memorizing long menus, presenting a sunny demeanor to customers — even when they’re entitled, or impatient, or rude, or creepy,” reads the SWBU FAQ page. “We will have the right to negotiate a union contract and have a real voice in setting organization policies, rights on the job, health and safety conditions, protections from unfair firings or unfair discipline, seniority rights, leaves of absence rights, benefits, wages, etc.”

Starbucks unionization means that workers can’t be disciplined or terminated “at will,” and instead will be shielded by union contracts, or collective bargaining agreements. The employees do have to pay dues, which range depending on the region. In Buffalo, New York, where the first union launched, dues for full time workers are nearly $11 a week, or $5 a week for those who work under 25 hours. 

The Tucson store’s unionization efforts weren’t without pushback. Employees claimed that they received a new district manager and had their hours reduced after announcing their intent to unionize. 

Among the local officials who applauded the unionization was Tucson Mayor Regina Romero. The mayor said that the effort was a win for “justice, equality, and a better life.” 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.