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Baristas at 2nd Peoria Starbucks seek to form a union

There are now nearly 33,000 Starbucks locations around the world. Here, a Starbucks logo hangs in the window in Homestead, Pa.
Gene J. Puskar
There are now nearly 33,000 Starbucks locations around the world. Here, a Starbucks logo hangs in the window in Homestead, Pa.

Baristas at a second Peoria Starbucks say they want to form a union.

Workers at the Starbucks location at 707 W. Pioneer Parkway are petitioning the National Labor Relations Board to form a union under Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union.

“For me, it wasn't just one thing that pushed me to want to unionize,” said Ary Westfall, who has been employed at the location for a little more than a year. “It was a combination of different events, from our store being broken down constantly to hearing (about) Campustown Starbucks unionizing. Seeing how Starbucks has reacted to all of these different stores unionizing has pushed me to want to do this.”

Campustown Starbucks workers voted 9 to 2 to unionize last week, joining a movement of Starbucks employees across the country seeking to collectively bargain with the coffee company.

On a conference call with Starbucks shareholders Tuesday, interim CEO Howard Schultz announced new benefits for employees at stores across the country – but not the ones that are unionizing. Those benefits include expanded training, improved sick leave, and credit card tipping.

Westfall said she anticipates an uphill battle over the Pioneer Parkway unionization drive as Starbucks management attempts to discourage the effort.

“We recently had to watch an hour-long video from Howard Schultz, where he talked about how the unions are terrorizing Starbucks, and how no matter how much they give us, we will always want more,” she said.

“There's constantly managers and district managers coming to our unionized stores that have never visited before, so you know they're there for a reason. They're usually questioning people, pulling them off the floor for long periods of time to ask or convince them to not vote ‘yes.’”

Westfall said one of the biggest current issues at the Pioneer Parkway location is a water filter that has gone unrepaired for at least five months. She said that results in a hard water build-up that clogs brewing equipment.

“Even if nothing was wrong with our store, I would still want to unionize because nothing is promised without a contract,” she said. “Starbucks could take away our benefits at any time, and they have. They've taken away our free drinks and food benefits that were promised when I was hired on that are no longer available.”

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.
Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.