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May 26, 2022

Four Starbucks stores in Philly vote to unionize as part of nationwide movement

The tight labor market has given many workers more leverage than they had prior to the COVID-19 pandemic

Business Starbucks
Starbucks Unionization Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

Employees at four Starbucks stores in Philadelphia voted to unionize Wednesday. A fifth store rejected the unionization effort.

The wave of unionization sweeping Starbucks stores across the country has made its way to Philadelphia.

Employees at four of the coffee chain's shops in the city voted to unionize Wednesday. A fifth location rejected the unionization effort. 

Across the United States, employees at about 90 Starbucks stores have unionized amid a broader resurgence of the American labor movement.

The newly unionized stores in Philadelphia are located at Ninth and South streets, 20th and Market streets, 34th and Walnut streets and the Penn Medicine Perelman Center, Axios reports. Workers at the 1945 Callowhill St. location voted against the effort.

"Two stores won unanimously!" tweeted the Philadelphia Joint Board, a branch of Workers United, which represents food service workers. "We told Starbucks: bad things happen to union busters in Philly."

Many workers view unionization as a step toward negotiating higher salaries, better benefits and more predictable schedules. 

"I wish today was the end of it. I wish tomorrow we'd go in and we were making $20 an hour, working 32-hour weeks full time," Amalia Jadeinkeles, a shift supervisor at the 20th and Market streets location, told 6ABC. "But we've got a contract to (do)."

Starbucks told the station that it will respect the unionization process and bargain in good faith. Its stance has remained the same since a Buffalo, New York store became the chain's first to unionize last year.

"From the beginning, we've been clear in our belief that we do not want a union between us as partners, and that conviction has not changed," Rossann Williams, the chain's executive vice president, said in a letter last year. "However, we have also said that we respect the legal process. This means we will bargain in good faith."

Two Starbucks stores in Chicago, Illinois also voted to unionize Wednesday. A Starbucks store in Tallahassee, Florida, took up a unionization vote, but the results are still pending due to a ballot challenge..

Jacobin reports that 87% of unionization votes at Starbucks stores have been successful and that labor organizers won more than 78% of the workers who voted. The left-wing magazine estimates that the number of unionized stores will reach 227 in the coming months due to the high number of National Labor Relations Board filings.

Unionization efforts among food service workers in Philadelphia aren't limited to major chains.

On Tuesday, the workers at Korshak Bagels in South Philly voted to unionize. In March, workers at Good Karma Cafe, a coffee chain with three Center City locations, voted to unionize.

Due to the tight labor market, many workers now have more leverage than they did prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many workers are choosing to leave their jobs in search of higher pay and better conditions as part of a trend known as "the great resignation."

The tight labor market has contributed to unionization efforts at Amazon warehouses in Alabama and New York. Additionally, strikes have been organized by workers at Kellogg's and John Deere.

But union membership has continued a downward trend.

Just 10.3% of American workers were unionized last year, according to numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's down from more than 20% in 1983, the first year the stat was recorded.

This decline occurred even as support for unions has grown steadily from 53% to 68% since 2015, Gallup reports.