Castro Starbucks first in San Francisco to vote to unionize

On Tuesday afternoon, with the National Labor Relations Board tallying the votes, workers at the Castro Starbucks (4098 18th St.) voted 7-2 in favor of forming a union (there were 15 eligible voters; 9 cast ballots). The Castro store join hundreds of other Starbucks unions at locations around the country that have taken similar steps this year.

“We’re very proud of the results today,” said James Kreiss, a worker at the Castro location. “We hope this win encourages our San Francisco sister stores to seek a union too. Staff and customers have gone through the ringer this past year with inconsistent staffing and store availability – we appreciate the support our community has shown us and the continued support as we begin the long process of negotiations with Starbucks. “

The Castro Starbucks, affectionately known as Bearbucks, was closed for about four months, from mid-December until April 18. A Starbucks spokesperson categorized the closure to Hoodline as a “facilities issue,” declining to comment further. Multiple workers at the Castro location tell SFGATE the store dealt for years with a plumbing issue – specifically, a rotten sewage smell – that they believe caused the shutdown and repairs. (Starbucks did not respond to a request for comment.)

Public records confirm a 2019 complaint about a “sewage smell,” though there aren’t more recent complaints on file. Permits show that multiple sinks were replaced earlier in 2022 and a “final plumbing inspection” took place March 1.

Workers at the Castro location discussed the possibility of unionizing ever since the first Starbucks union was established in Buffalo in early December of 2021, but those conversations didn’t pick up in earnest until early May of 2022, when their store was fully open again, Kreiss said. During the four-month closure, Castro workers had their hours drop off, sometimes dramatically, as they searched for other Bay Area locations where they could pick up temporary shifts. That, multiple workers said, is one of many reasons they wanted to proceed with a vote to unionize.

Starbucks has five days to challenge the results of the vote. Otherwise, in one week, the results will be certified, according to the NLRB.

San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who represents the Castro, offered the following statement to SFGATE: “Many congratulations to the Castro Starbucks employees on their historic vote to become San Francisco’s first unionized Starbucks store. In an era of growing income inequality, successful efforts to organize low-wage private sector workers remind us that there is still power in a union and San Francisco is still a union town. “

Supervisor Dean Preston, who recently authored a resolution in support of Starbucks’ workers right to organize, also sent a statement to SFGATE:

“It takes tremendous courage and determination to form a union, especially in a climate where too often big corporations engage in blatant union busting activity. I’m proud of Starbucks employees here and across the country who are unionizing their workplaces. ”

The Bay Area may soon add another unionized Starbucks location: Workers at the Starbucks at 2224 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley are scheduled to have their ballots counted by the NLRB next Monday, Aug. 22.

Leave a Comment