Employees of an Oakland Starbucks store are the first in the city and the second in less than a month in Alameda County to seek to form a union, union officials said this week.

A notice hangs on a window inside the Starbucks Coffee location at the Cedar Cove shopping center in Oakland in January 2022. Like many businesses emerging from the pandemic, staffing shortages have been a problem at the store according to workers there who claim they are doing more work with fewer people. (Image via Chad Richards/Google)

Tuesday’s announcement pertains to a store at 1211 Embarcadero. Workers at a store in Pleasanton filed a petition in early March.

Fourteen people work at the Oakland store, and a supermajority are in favor of unionizing, a barista said in a phone interview Tuesday.

“There’s numerous concerns,” barista Nick Ratto said regarding the reason for filing the petition.

The store has been understaffed, Ratto said, and while workers got a pay raise recently, managers cut employees’ hours.

“At the end of the day, it ended up being a pay cut,” Ratto said.

The understaffing has caused stress for workers, who are doing the job of 1.5 to two employees, he said.

Employees, or “partners” as Starbucks calls them, want their store to be an “enjoyable place to work” and they want to earn more money, Ratto said.

Ready to bargain

Starbucks spokesperson Andrew Trull said in an email Tuesday, “We believe our direct relationship as partners is core to the culture and experiences we create in our stores. We recognize that a subset of partners feel differently — and we respect their right to organize and to engage in lawful union activities.”

Fewer than 3 percent of U.S. company-owned stores have chosen to petition for union representation, according to Starbucks.

“Should partners at our Estuary Cove store on the Embarcadero in Oakland vote in favor of union representation, we look forward to meeting Workers United in-person to begin the single-store collective bargaining process,” Trull said.

Starbucks partners Wednesday at a store in San Francisco went on strike for one day, saying their employer is engaging in union busting, according to the union Starbucks Workers United.

Workers picketed outside the store at 4094 18th St. in the Castro neighborhood from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Workers planned to be back to work Thursday, said Melissa Palominos with the union.

Union-busting denied

Eighteen Starbucks stores in California so far have unionized, Palominos said. That includes stores in Berkeley, two in Santa Cruz and one in Capitola, she said.

Trull responded to the union-busting allegation, which the company “strongly denies,” saying, “Starbucks has fully honored the process laid out by the [National Labor Relations Board] and remains fully committed to our partners’ right to organize and engage in lawful labor activities. Starbucks is also defending the right of its partners to cast secret ballots through in-person, NLRB-supervised voting.”

Starbucks denies violating any labor laws, Trull said.

“No case initiated by Workers United related to the current organizing campaign has made its way through the entire litigation process, up to and including the federal courts of appeals,” said Trull. “In many instances, the NLRB is also attempting to use cases against Starbucks to change existing labor law — not because Starbucks is failing to comply with the law as it exists today.”

Keith Burbank is currently a fulltime reporter covering Alameda County and Oakland news for Bay City News. He has also worked on the Data Points project for Local News Matters, finding trends and stories about the region through data. In 2019, he was a California Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, producing a series about homeless deaths in Santa Clara County. He worked as a swing shift editor for the newswire for several years as well. Outside of journalism, Keith enjoys computer programming, math, economics and music.