© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Inside the push to unionize an Oak Creek Starbucks

Oak Creek Starbucks
Wisconsin AFL-CIO
People gathered outside of a Starbucks in Oak Creek, Wisconsin on February 19, 2022 to announce their intentions to unionize.

You may have heard about a group of Starbucks employees in Buffalo, New York who successfully unionized late last year. They are hoping the union will land a minimum wage pay increase along with improved COVID-19 safety practices. Now, there are Starbucks in Wisconsin that want to do the same.

In February, employees at a Starbucks in Oak Creek announced their intentions to unionize. They are seeking representation fromWorkers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union— the same union that represents the Starbucks’ Buffalo location.

Starbucks employees Sydney LeBarron-Fahl and Hannah Fogarty share more about why they are pushing to unionize in Oak Creek.

Their call to unionize is not different from any of the other Starbucks that have already unionized, Fogarty shares.

Low wages and Starbucks' COVID protocols, she says, have been a challenge. "I think what really set us off is when the isolation period was bumped down to five days, and then we had people working on day six with symptoms. I think that's definitely the main thing that has scared a lot of people," Fogarty says.

Baristas and other staff at Starbucks just want to be heard; she continues, it's long overdue and much of her peers have felt that way for a while.

LeBarron-Fahl adds, "The main big thing that is kind of an oxymoron is that we're called partners, but then we get treated like, like we're just employees or sometimes even worse. We're not treated like Starbucks wants or thinks that we should be treated."

Currently the staff at Oak Creek has not received a response to their request to be unionized.

From Fogarty's perspective, it seems like Starbucks is intimidated by being exposed as being less socially aware.

To show support, LeBarron-Fahl recommends little things customers can do like buying a coffee that says "union strong." "The community response has been so far very positive. On the first day that we filed and the first news got out, a person came in and they were so excited and happy for us because they their company wasn't able to unionize," she adds.

The Oak Creek Starbucks staff is more than willing to negotiate on the specifics, LeBarron-Fahl says, but they just want a say in the things that are happening to them on a daily basis that affect their work.

In recent weeks, employees at a Starbucks in Plover, Wisconsin have also announced plans to union.

A spokesperson from Starbucks said this in response:"We are listening and learning from the partners in these stores as we always do across the country. Our position hasn't changed Starbucks success, past present and future assault on how we partner together, always with our mission and values our core."

Mallory Cheng was a Lake Effect producer from 2021 to 2023.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
Related Content