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Starbucks baristas in Boone unionize; Raleigh could be next

There are now nearly 33,000 Starbucks locations around the world. Here, a Starbucks logo hangs in the window in Homestead, Pa.
There are now nearly 33,000 Starbucks locations around the world. Here, a Starbucks logo hangs in the window in Homestead, Pa.

Baristas in Boone have voted to unionize, marking the first Starbucks workers in North Carolina to join a national trend.

And another Starbucks store in North Carolina could move forward with unionization efforts on Tuesday.

Employees at the Boone Starbucks voted 33-2 on Saturday to form a union. According to barista Grace Marvell, the vote allows the 48 workers to negotiate for better working hours and a higher hourly wage. She says the move has been met with community support in the college town.

Marvell has worked at the Boone Starbucks for three years and told WUNC that her hourly wage is $12.60. She adds that some online orders have recently come in under the name “union yes,” which has given her and her colleagues a boost

“It’s very inspiring just have all the people come in the cafe, congratulate us, saying they support us, and we also saw an uptick in tips,” Marvell said.

Boone is one of many Starbucks stores around the country to unionize in the past year. The nation’s largest coffee chain has been known to block labor efforts.

But Marvell says she hasn’t experienced anything too egregious.

“For me personally, the only union busting I’ve seen are they have taken us into a meeting and just gone over what it means to – quote – be a partner and the different benefits Starbucks offers,” Marvell said. “Basically, as a way to – I want to say satiate us, to try and make us realize you don’t need to be in a union.”

In Raleigh, results in a unionization effort are expected soon. Workers at a Raleigh Starbucks have cast their union votes, and according to a shift manager, have sent the ballots to the National Labor Relations Board office in Winston-Salem. A final tally could be announced as soon as Tuesday.

Workers at Starbucks in Asheville and Durham also are working toward unionization. Calls to a Starbucks District Manager were not returned as of Monday afternoon.

In August 2021, three Starbucks stores around Buffalo, New York unionized. In the eight months since, close to 250 stores have sought unionization. According to NPR, Starbucks petitions account for nearly a quarter of all petitions filed with the National Labor Relations Board since January.

Digital Producer Mitchell Northam contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 North Carolina Public Radio. To see more, visit North Carolina Public Radio.

Jeff Tiberii first started posing questions to strangers after dinner at La Cantina Italiana, in Massachusetts, when he was two-years-old. Jeff grew up in Wayland, Ma., an avid fan of the Boston Celtics, and took summer vacations to Acadia National Park (ME) with his family. He graduated from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University with a degree in Broadcast Journalism, and moved to North Carolina in 2006. His experience with NPR member stations WAER (Syracuse), WFDD (Winston-Salem) and now WUNC, dates back 15 years.