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After months of organizing, Fresno, California Starbucks workers vote 14-0 to reject union representation, the official vote count shows on Monday.
Employees at a Fresno Starbucks unanimously rejected union representation, based on election results released Monday.
The final results of a union vote for the Starbucks store on Herndon and Marks in northwest Fresno show a unanimous vote against forming a union. Employees rejected unionization in a 14-0 vote, confirmed a representative of Starbucks United on Monday. Twenty-four workers were eligible to vote.
Some store employees first announced their intention to unionize in a letter issued on April 21. In the letter, workers described assaults by customers, staffing shortages, unfair compensation, and a “traumatic mauling” as some of the reasons for seeking union representation.
The effort to unionize had not been without its challenges.
Benjamin Takemoto, the shift supervisor who authored the store’s letter of intent to unionize, was placed on indefinite paid time off by the company in late May, a move Takemoto said felt “retaliatory” at the time. He was reinstated about two weeks later and has since filed an unfair labor practice charge against Starbucks with the NRLB which is currently under review.
These challenges reflect a nationwide trend of alleged retaliatory actions against Starbucks workers that seek to unionize.
The National Labors Relations Board has repeatedly sued the company in federal court, according to a report by Bloomberg.
Maria Rivera, a regional manager for Workers United, slammed the company following the failed union in Fresno.
“This is very disappointing and it is a clear evidence of the fact that the will of the workers is being affected by Starbucks’ anti-union campaign, which includes threats, discrimination and the targeting of leaders,” Rivera said in a statement. “Leaders such as Ben from the Fresno store, who was put on leave for no clear reason in the weeks preceding the votes.”
Starbucks responded to the accusations in an email statement to The Bee on Tuesday morning.
“The majority of partners at this store voted to keep our direct relationship. This is a resounding vote of confidence in moving forward and continuing to partner directly with Starbucks,” said a company spokesperson.
Starbucks also criticized the Starbucks Workers United organizers. “These intermediaries have demonstrated that not only do they not operate in the best interest of partners, but sadly they’ll break labor rules to do so. The behavior we’re seeing from Workers United organizers is not acceptable and we won’t tolerate it.”
The spokesperson also pointed out that Starbucks filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the NLRB on April 20 to “protect the physical safety and emotional wellbeing of our partners and customers and to make it clear that the intimidation, bullying and harassment we’re seeing from some union organizers is not acceptable,” said the spokesperson.
In May, a regional director with the NLRB filed over 200 allegations of unfair labor practices by Starbucks in a consolidated complaint.
Starbucks also said any claims of unfair labor practices against them are “categorically false.”
Over 100 Starbucks stores nationwide have voted in favor of union representation, according to the Associated Press.
Lead organizer at Fresno Starbucks is “shocked”
Takemoto, the worker leading unionization efforts, said he’s “shocked by the (election) results” in an interview with The Bee on Tuesday morning. “I’m frustrated with the turnout.”
Takemoto said he thinks his colleagues at Starbucks were subject to “intimidation” by the company.
But Starbucks denies this claim. “We have fully honored the process laid out by the NLRB and encouraged our partners to exercise their right to vote in the election to have their voices heard,” said the Starbucks spokesperson.
The Fresno shop would have been the first to unionize in the Central Valley, a move that labor advocates and activists said would have been “historical.”
Another factor Takemoto said he thinks could have impacted the vote was the process to receive the ballots, which were mailed out to workers eligible to vote.
“Some people didn’t even receive ballots,” he said. “I didn’t receive a ballot initially and had to reach out for a replacement — I know three other people did the same as well.”
Takemoto said his vote in favor of unionization wasn’t counted in the final vote. He said he thinks this was due to an administrative issue and perhaps his ballot wasn’t received by the NLRB on time. Takemoto said he mailed in his ballot on July 3 from Fresno; the deadline for the ballot to arrive in Oakland was July 8.
The experience “definitely shakes my confidence in that system,” said Takemoto. “Or at least my confidence in using USPS delivery system for the ballot.“
The NLRB couldn’t be immediately reached for comment on the mail-in ballot process.
Ultimately, though, Takemoto said he’s “happy his partners got to cast their vote” and he encourages other Fresno area Starbucks stores to exercise their right to vote for union representation.
“If they have questions (or) need support navigating any part of the process…reach out to me.”