Union organizers have taken the labor fight to Starbucks’s front door.

After the first Starbucks location in the United States voted this month to unionize in upstate New York, workers in stores across the country have become interested in the process. The most recent store seeking to organize is in Seattle, where the coffee giant is headquartered.

Employees at the location have filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board seeking to hold a union election next month to determine whether it should be the first Washington-based store to organize.

“We believe that partnership comes with a weight and responsibility on all sides, one that can only be fulfilled with equal power and accountability. We are organizing a union because we believe the best way to uphold our end of the partnership is by creating a voice for ourselves so that we can work alongside one another as true partners,” four employees wrote in a letter to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson.


The workers went on to say that they aren’t looking to organize “as a reaction to specific policies, events, or changes,” but rather as a “fundamental and necessary way” to grow the company and participate as employees.

“We see organizing as a way to grow and challenge the perspective of what Starbucks is and can be. We see it as a way to create a future for all partners to be proud of,” the group said, urging Johnson to sign a “fair elections principles” sheet attached to the letter.

The second document lists nine different statements, including vows that there will be no negative repercussions for workers who wish to organize, that no threats will be made during the process, and that Starbucks will provide equal time and space for pro-union dialogue in contrast to any anti-union messaging it puts out.

Earlier this month, a Starbucks store in Buffalo, New York, made history by becoming the first Starbucks location in the United States to form a union. A second Starbucks location in that area voted against unionizing in a 12-8 vote, and a third store’s votes are in contention as several ballots are being challenged.

Starbucks Union
Starbucks employees and supporters react as votes are read during a viewing of their union election on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in Buffalo, N.Y. Starbucks workers at a Buffalo store voted to unionize on Thursday, a first for the 50-year-old coffee retailer in the U.S. and the latest sign that the labor movement is stirring after decades of decline. (Joshua Bessex/AP)

Workers at the Buffalo location cited a perceived lack of training, issues with pay, understaffing, and stressful working conditions as motivating factors behind the union drive, which first began back in August.

Three additional stores in Buffalo also announced their intent to hold union votes as the first three stores voted on organizing.

The successful unionization effort generated national interest, and just days later, workers at two Boston-area Starbucks locations also filed for union elections with the labor board. Starbucks workers at a store in Mesa, Arizona, filed paperwork with the NLRB asking the same.

“We believe that there can be no true partnership without power-sharing and accountability,” the Boston workers said in a letter to Johnson. “We are organizing a union in Boston because we believe that this is the best way to contribute meaningfully to our partnership with the company.”

Starbucks has repeatedly said it does not oppose the right of its workers to organize but thinks it's unnecessary, given the work environment and benefits that employees receive under the current system.


“We will continue to focus on the best Starbucks experience we can deliver for each other and our customers. We are grateful for each customer who exercised their right to vote, and as we move forward, we will continue to focus on working to exceed the expectations of all our partners and our customers,” a Starbucks spokesman told the Washington Examiner after the first store voted to unionize.

“Independent of the outcome of these elections, we respect the process and will continue to stay true to our mission and values,” he added.