Tennessee coffee shops join the growing effort to unionize

Posted at 11:54 AM, Apr 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-09 18:09:07-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Two chain locations and one local coffee shop have filed to unionize their workplaces in Middle Tennessee.

Smyrna's Starbucks location at Interstate 24 and Sam Ridley Parkway and Murfreesboro's Starbucks location at Fortress and John Rice Boulevard both filed.

The organizing committee out of Symrna's store sent a letter to the company's interim president and CEO Howard Schultz. They claimed not feeling valued by Starbucks, having hours cut and having wage increases pushed back.

"We feel it is unjust that while the company and profits thrive, the partners on the front line continue to suffer while being expected to keep the business running," the letter said.

Starbucks as a whole is seeing a unionization effort across the country. The Associated Press reported that 10 of the company's stores have voted to unionize since December, with at least 181 in 28 states filing to hold union elections.

"We are listening and learning from the partners at these stores as we always do across the country. From the beginning, we've been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners without a union between us, and that conviction has not changed," said a Starbucks spokesperson in a call with NewsChannel 5.

In the letter from the organizing committee out of Smyrna's store, claims were made of facing retaliation and union busting tactics. The Starbucks spokesperson said any claims of anti-union activity are categorically false.

In regards to the claims in the letter of labor cuts, hours being slashed and wage increases continuing to be pushed back, the Starbucks spokesperson said that they schedule hours based on customer behaviors. They said it would not be accurate to call their scheduling decisions "cutting hours."

When it comes to wages, the Starbucks spokesperson said that in the past two years they have made almost a billion dollars in "incremental investments in wages and benefits".

There has also been successful unionizing efforts recently in Nashville with Three Brothers Coffee.

Three Brothers workers voted Friday to unionize. The vote was overseen by one of the baristas, the owner of the shop and a member of National Labor Relations Board.