Maspeth Starbucks files for union

Employees participate in national strike

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Employees of Starbucks’ Maspeth location participated in a strike outside the store.

Maspeth’s only Starbucks store, located inside the Shops at Grand Avenue, has become the third one in Queens to file for a union election with Workers United NY/NJ, the independent union representative of Starbucks Workers United.

Fifteen of the location’s 16 employees signed union cards, as well as penned a letter to Starbucks’ president and CEO, Howard Schultz. In their efforts, they join fellow workers from 30-18 Astoria Blvd. and 22-28 31st St. in Astoria as Queens locations to unionize.

In their letter, the employees claim they have experienced mistreatment from managers and district managers, that they are understaffed, underpaid and not given enough hours to work.

“Concerns have been voiced over and over again during our time with Starbucks. However, no changes have been made whatsoever, which is why we have decided that unionizing is our best and only option at this point,” the letter said. “We are the ones who run your stores, we are the ones that do our best to treat the customers with kindness and warmth, and we are the ones who can make your sales happen, yet we are being treated as if we are not the ones who are the reason this company still stands along with your customers.”

Last Thursday, Nov. 17, employees of the Maspeth Starbucks store joined fellow Starbucks workers within Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Long Island, as well as over 110 locations across the country, in Red Cup Rebellion, a national unfair labor practice (ULP) strike.

The strike took place on the same day the company gave out red cups with the purchase of any seasonal drink, and called on Starbucks to “begin bargaining in good faith and fully staff all stores.”

Employees of the store gathered outside at 7 a.m. to demonstrate, and handed out Starbucks Workers United branded cups to passersby.

Employees of the Maspeth Starbucks participated in a strike outside the store on Red Cup Day, giving out Starbucks Workers United cups.

“I think the most important thing that motivated people to be here today in this weather was the misbehavior from our district manager. She is very manipulative and has always been condescending to her staff,” an employee named Azim, who requested his last name be omitted, said.

“This is not the feeling in just this store. If you go to any of the Starbucks in this district, I think everybody would resonate with that.”

Azim has worked at the Maspeth Starbucks for three years, and has been with the company for a total of seven.

He added that people’s schedules often get rejected, and folks aren’t working enough hours to pay their bills, and that the store is quite short-staffed, with claims that there are sometimes just two employees working the floor during the busiest rush.

Another employee, Kelly, who also requested her last name be omitted, said that being located across the street from Maspeth High School causes the busy rush hour in the morning, making the job much more difficult while being short-staffed.

“We should not be told by DMs that we should move up in the company for more money if that is what we need, that we need to motivate partners not to call out or pick up more shifts than scheduled, and proceed to compare our work with other fast food workers,” the employees said in the letter to Schultz. “We should not be told that our pay is more than enough compared to others when at the end of the day, we are still at only a dollar and change above minimum wage.”

Starbucks did not respond to a request for comment with regard to the Maspeth location.

Back in April, Starbucks’ Reserve Roastery located at 61 Ninth Avenue in Chelsea, Manhattan, won their union election, becoming the first flagship store to unionize with Starbucks Workers United/Workers United.

The location has been striking for over 20 days after the company failed to provide information regarding confirmed reports of bed bugs at the store and to set a bargaining date to have workers’ needs met.

According to data from More Perfect Union Action, a registered District of Columbia 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, workers at 345 Starbucks stores in 39 states have filed to unionize.

Those workers follow in the footsteps of employees of Starbucks in Buffalo, N.Y., whose Elmwood Ave. location made history as the first unionized Starbucks location in the country.

Starbucks employees are demanding that the company meet with them to improve standards in staffing and scheduling, along with other bargaining proposals, such as for workers to have the ability to wear union gear on the clock, no dress codes, and a commitment to non-discrimination.

Ditmars Starbucks worker claims illegal firing

Starbucks worker Austin Locke has been a leading voice for the unionization of the Starbucks at 31st Street and Ditmars Boulevard.

He has worked there for the past three years, spending six in total with the company.

Austin Locke protesting outside Starbucks

His name was the first in the letter workers sent to Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz detailing how they have experienced “all sorts of harassment, racism, sexism, and physical violence on top of fewer hours, meager wages, and poor staffing.”

Less than a week after he and his team unionized on June 30—making them the second in Queens to do so—Locke was fired on July 5 for what he calls “bogus reasons” in a video posted to the official Twitter account of the organizers at the Ditmars Boulevard Starbucks (DitmarsSBWU).

“I was just recently fired here illegally for unionizing the store,” he said in the video, in which he also announced a rally will be held on July 22 at 6 p.m.

A Starbucks spokesperson denies these allegations, instead stating that Locke was fired due to violating health and safety standards, failing to comply with COVID-19 violations and violating the Starbucks code of ethics.

“Austin Locke is no longer with Starbucks for blatant violations of our health and safety standards, as well as failing to uphold our mission and values,” a spokesperson stated. “Our health and safety standards are in place to protect our partners and the communities we serve, and we cannot ignore blatant violations that put others at risk. A partner’s interest in a union does not exempt them from the standards we have always held. We will continue to consistently enforce our policies.”

Having two previous violations during his time with Starbucks, a spokesperson stated that he received his third violation, or “corrective action,” when he refused to have his temperature taken when he showed up for work the day after calling out sick with COVID-19.

He also alleged a coworker had physical contact with him, despite video evidence proving that to be false, according to the Starbucks spokesperson.

Locke is demanding reinstatement and backpay for the days since he was fired, and announced via Twitter that there will be a rally on July 22 at 6 p.m. for these demands.

The demands of the Ditmars Starbucks include increased wages, free full-coverage healthcare, and more sick time. Among elected officials who have shown support for the recent vote to unionize is State Senator Michael Gianaris.

“Congratulations to the latest Queens Starbucks workers exercising their right to organize and join a union,” he said in a recent statement. “Organized labor is the foundation of a strong working class, which we need now more than ever. I am thrilled this movement keeps growing, and I am proud of the workers leading this fight.”

Half a mile away, the Astoria Boulevard and 31st Street Starbucks celebrated a unanimous vote on June 6, making it the first in Queens.

The two Starbucks join a movement of hundreds of other stores that are making clear their frustration with being underpaid and understaffed.

Such a movement can be seen In Buffalo, New York, where a unionized Starbucks on Elmwood Avenue informed local leaders they would be going on strike on July 9 due to changing staff schedules.

In a message published on the Starbucks news website on July 11, Shultz — who returned to Starbucks as interim CEO in April after retiring in 2018 — states that “we need to reinvent Starbucks for the future.”

He presents, in this message, five new moves to reinvent Starbucks, and a set of principles for a new partnership at Starbucks.

This message can be found at stories.starbucks.com.

Astoria Starbucks first in Queens to file to unionize

An Astoria Starbucks is filing for a union, the first of its kind in Queens.

The store, located at 30-18 Astoria Boulevard, announced its plans to file a petition for a union election in a letter written to President and CEO Howard Schultz.

“The organizing committee at Astoria Blvd. firmly stands in solidarity with unionization efforts across the country,” the letter reads. “The same courage of stores before us has empowered our baristas to take positive action. We are cautiously excited for the future of a company that is reflective of its workforce and not of corporate greed.”

The Astoria location is part of more than 145 stores across the country that have filed to unionize.

Elected officials at all levels of government showed their support for the workers at the Astoria Boulevard store with a letter of support and impromptu visits to the store.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani and Councilmember Tiffany Cabán all signed on to the letter calling for Schultz to sign the Fair Election Principles and respecting the workers’ right to organize.

“Every worker should have the right to organize a union and bargain collectively,” Gianaris said. “I stand with the workers at my local store and the entire Starbucks Workers United effort as they fight for better working conditions and fair pay for all associates. I call on Starbucks to allow the free, unencumbered election these workers deserve.”

In February, three Starbucks locations in New York City made their first efforts to unionize, just weeks after three more stores in Buffalo were the first to do so. The first union elections in New York City will be an in-person vote at the Roastery at the end of the month.

The Astor Place location will be voting by mail with ballots going out at the start of next month, and ballots for Caesar’s Bay in Brooklyn, Great Neck in Long Island, and Massapequa in Long Island will go out a week later.

Brandi Aldu, a Starbucks Workers United organizing committee member, said, “My fellow partners and I decided to unionize because we are forced to manage the consequences of decisions we were not a part of, made by people who don’t understand what it is like to live a life as a Starbucks barista.”

Fill the Form for Events, Advertisement or Business Listing