‘Dear Mr. Schultz’ — Starbucks Unionization Grows Rapidly in Texas

by | May 20, 2022 | Labor, News, San Antonio

In a letter addressed to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, workers in Bulverde near San Antonio recently announced their intention to unionize, becoming at least the seventh store in the Lone Star State to do so.

The San Antonio area coffee shop joins a growing list of hundreds of other Starbucks locations across the country that began to organize late last year, beginning with stores in Buffalo, New York.

Evan Robens, a member of the union organizing committee at the Bulverde location, told the Signal he is seeking better pay and benefits for fellow coworkers. 

“I didn’t see it as really a reachable goal until the first store in Texas, which was also in San Antonio, unionized,” Robens said of organizing the union drive.

“When that happened, then more people were actually talking about it and aware, just because Buffalo is a little far away from here so it’s kind of like, ‘oh that’s going on there, it couldn’t happen here,’ and once it did, I become a lot more interested in making it happen at my store specifically,” Robens said.

To kick off the union drive, Robens said he sought help from an employee at the first San Antonio that organized in February. He said the unionizing effort is not meant to target or attack Starbucks as a company. 

“We all actually love our jobs and enjoy working here which is why we want to put time and effort into this, so that we can actually coexist and work with Starbucks to better things for all of us,” Robens.

The Bulverde Starbucks will soon file a petition with the National Labor Relations Board for a representation election. The six other unionizing stores in Texas — in El Paso, Denton, San Antonio and Austin — are also awaiting their respective elections. 

More than 300 Starbucks stores in the country have filed to become a union in the past year. According to Starbucks Workers United, the group leading the national movement to organize the baristas, more than 80 stores across the country have officially unionized.

Earlier this month, federal labor officials accused Starbucks of unfair labor practices in stores in Buffalo where the union movement began, including retaliation against pro-union employees. 

The major coffee company has been accused of anti-union tactics, such as closing stores where union activity is present, increased surveillance and intimidation, and firing or threatening to let go pro-union employees for scheduling issues or petty issues (like suddenly firing one pro-union employee for wearing a nose ring).

Richard Bensinger, a labor consultant and former organizing director for the AFL-CIO that has been advising Starbucks Workers United, said he has never seen a company demonize the labor movement so much.

“The irony is this is Starbucks, this is supposed to be a progressive company,” Bensinger said. “This isn’t Amazon or Walmart, they don’t claim to be progressive.”

Bensinger said Starbucks Workers United is an organic uprising made up of Gen Z and millennial workers who want nothing more than a job and a voice.

“It’s a joyous movement,” Bensinger said. “These folks love Starbucks but they say if you call us partners, we want a real partnership.”

“When is enough enough?” Bensinger added. “This is such a wealthy company and these workers are not really paid enough or treated good enough.”

fernando@texassignal.com | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at fernando@texassignal.com

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