Voting has started at one of seven Colorado Starbucks stores seeking to unionize

Voting has begun on forming a union at a Starbucks store in Superior and another Colorado store has filed to be represented by Workers United, bringing the total in the state to seven.

Ballots were mailed Monday to workers at the Superior store. The National Labor Relations Board will count the votes April 22.

Elections have been scheduled at two Colorado Springs stores and two in Denver. Those ballots will be counted May 19.

Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, said Wednesday that workers at a third Colorado Springs store have filed to form a union. Organizers said in a statement that several factors “have led to partners feeling overworked, underappreciated and unrewarded” and believe their concerns can best be addressed by joining a union.

Organizing efforts in Colorado are part of a growing wave across the country to unionize workplaces of the Seattle-based coffee-shop giant, which has stores around the world. In December, employees at a Buffalo, N.Y., store were the first to vote in a union. Other stores in New York, Seattle and Mesa, Ariz., have approved unions and employees at more than 180 locations in several different states have filed for elections.

Len Harris, a shift supervisor at the Superior store, said she is “quite confident” that the roughly 30 employees will support the union. But Harris said workers continue to see their hours scaled back, a trend she said has occurred at sites where employees want to join a union.

“We’ve had our hours slashed to ribbons,” Harris said.

Full-time workers who previously averaged between 25 to 38 hours a week are getting 20 to 22 hours a week, Harris said. Part-time workers are often working fewer than the 20 hours needed to qualify for health care benefits.

A Starbucks spokeswoman in March told The Denver Post that claims of cutting hours and targeting employees because of union organizing “are categorically false.” The company didn’t respond Wednesday to a request for comment.

Starbucks has said it doesn’t want a union between it and its employees, which the company refers to as “partners,” but it will respect the legal process and bargain in good faith with the unions.

Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, who led the company from 1987 to 2018, returned in March as interim CEO. Schultz, who explored a 2020 presidential bid, said in a letter to employees that he plans to meet with employees across the country and is suspending the company’s buyback of shares to invest more money in employees and stores.

Schultz said Starbucks is facing new realities, including “a rising generation which seeks a new accountability for business.”

Accountability is among the goals Michaela Sellaro said she and her co-workers at a Starbucks on East Colfax Avenue in Denver hope to achieve by starting a union. Employees there are waiting for a decision from the NLRB on whether they can vote as a single store or must vote as part of a regional district, as Starbucks is seeking.

The NLRB has rejected previous attempts by Starbucks to force votes across several stores. The company didn’t push for district votes at Colorado stores that filed later to unionize.

“We’re kind of in limbo with very little information,” Sellaro, a shift supervisor, said.

Employees staged a one-day strike in March over claims of unfair labor practices. Sellaro said waiting for an election is frustrating, but she doesn’t expect employees’ commitment to wane.

“We have all invested a lot in this effort, a lot of time, a lot of reputational risk, a lot of sweat and tears,” she said.

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