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A Starbucks store in Santa Maria is now the 17th in California to unionize

Starbucks' Broadway and McCoy, a location in Santa Maria became the 17th store in the state to unionize.
Gabriela Fernandez
The Starbucks store on Broadway and McCoy in Santa Maria has become the 17th in the state to unionize.

The growing trend of unions forming at Starbucks stores across the country has come to Santa Maria.

A string of Starbucks unionizations began last December when a store in Buffalo, New York began advocating for better working conditions. Now, Starbucks workers across the country are saying they want better benefits, more hours and higher wages.

Jaylee Moore is a shift supervisor at the Starbucks on Broadway and McCoy in Santa Maria. She’s also the lead organizer that banded her team together to vote for their unionization.

“The first Starbucks in Buffalo, New York kicking off, getting their union, really inspired us here because it was something that was on our mind before then. Seeing a path forward really inspired us,” Moore said.

Moore said when she heard the news of what happened in Buffalo, she wanted to get the ball rolling for her team, as she felt the baristas were being taken advantage of. She said their manager was over-hiring and spreading hours out thinly.

Starbucks’ benefits policy is that if workers do not work at least 20 hours per week, they do not receive benefits like health coverage, a 401K, paid time off and student loan management.

“I've seen coworkers get fired for no good reason. Starbucks was once a company that was thought to be really good to work for because they had really good benefits. But a lot of those benefits our partners can't use,” Moore said.

Moore said part of the reason the employees decided to put themselves through the voting process was because a previous co-worker was fired for what she called unfair reasons.

Now with their store being a part of the union, they are allowed to request a union representative to sit down with them and their manager to mitigate fair treatment.

“Whenever any meeting from management can lead to discipline, you have a right to a union representative to be there with you and the management can't proceed without them being there. And the status quo must be maintained in the store, so they can't make any changes to the workplace without our consent,” Moore said.

In a statement Starbucks provided to KCBX in response to this story, the company said it respects its employees’ legal right to unionize.

But Moore said she feels Starbucks has been actively discouraging union organizing at the store, which she thinks led to some workers voting no.

“Starbucks is really trying to push down on this. They have a bunch of anti-union posters in the back. They have us have one-on-one meetings with our district manager and our store manager.”

Starbucks did not comment on this claim but said in its statement, "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.”

The statement said that as the bargaining process unfolds, the company will, “bargain in good faith with the stores that chose to be represented by Workers United.”

There are currently 250 stores that have successfully unionized, and the next union election will be held for a location in Santa Clara in the Bay Area.

Gabriela Fernandez came to KCBX in May of 2022 as a general assignment reporter, and became news director in December of 2023. She graduated from Sacramento State with a BA in Political Science. During her senior year, she interned at CapRadio in their podcast department, and later worked for them as an associate producer on the TahoeLand podcast. When she's not writing or editing news stories, she loves to travel, play tennis and take her 140-lbs dog, Atlas, on long walks by the coast.