GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Starbucks employees in Grand Rapids are moving to unionize, joining a growing movement in the company’s stores across the country.
On Monday, employees at the Burton and Rosemont location in southeast Grand Rapids notified corporate in a letter about their intentions of unionizing.
“We have been inspired by the efforts of other partners organizing across the country, from Buffalo, Memphis, Ann Arbor and Phoenix,” the employees wrote. “We here at Burton and Rosemont are joining their efforts, as we have determined that unionizing would allow us to truly feel like partners.”
Shelby Minnema, of Grand Rapids, has worked for Starbucks for a decade and at the Burton and Rosemont location for three years. She spoke with News 8 on Saturday afternoon, saying the store’s motto is “challenging the status quo,” and that’s one reason why they became the first employees in Grand Rapids to move to unionize.
“The common misconception about us unionizing is we don’t like Starbucks, which is completely false,” Minnema said. “We love Starbucks, which is why we want to unionize to make it better.”
Minnema said they closely watched the unionization efforts of the Buffalo, New York workers. They recently became the first Starbucks employees to unionize in the nation.
“A lot of the grievances they had was similar to ours and we’re like, ‘we should really start to seriously consider this as an option for us,’” Minnema said.
In the letter, the Grand Rapids employees wrote they often use “broken or run down equipment,” and they’ve been “forced to remain open despite suffering extreme staffing shortages.”
They also said Starbucks has raked in record-breaking revenue during the pandemic, but the workers aren’t getting a bump in pay.
“We are continuously disheartened because of insufficient pay which results in a struggle to afford basic care,” they wrote.
“Us as partners who are at the store levels are very much the faces of this company,” Minnema said. “We hold a lot of responsibility in that. We really want to have a voice in our own concerns and be heard.”
Minnema said Starbucks has a track record of deterring union efforts, making her colleagues worried initially.
“Often times Starbucks puts in place union-busting people or rhetoric into the stores when it becomes known that store wants to unionize,” she said. “We’ve seen it in Buffalo, I believe Memphis has gone through it, and it’s something we were fully aware of going into this.”
Despite that, they were excited to “take this journey together.”
“We are such a team, and it was more just a feeling of excitement, like we’re finally taking this big step to do this,” she said.
Minnema also said her Starbucks is truly a community, and they want to make it better.
“I’ve known people who watch their kids grow up, I’ve seen them go through life events, I’ve lost some customers that I’ve mourned,” she said. “The community there is so strong, and we want Starbucks to take this next step and build on it together.”
Going forward, Minnema said they will negotiate with the company and there will eventually be a vote. She’s hoping they will unionize successfully by the end of the year.
She also encouraged the community to come to the store on March 24 for a “pro-union day,” where you can ask questions about the effort.
News 8 has reached out to Starbucks about this story but has not received a response as of Saturday night.
“We really are not trying to fight against them,” Minnema said. “We want to work with them for this. All we want is to better the company and better the workplace.”