Workers at three Starbuck stores in Central Jersey have begun considering efforts to unionize, as area lawmakers have thrown support behind trying to get the company not to retaliate against such actions.

Employees at Starbucks in Hopewell, Summit and Hamilton are the first voting in New Jersey on whether to join Starbucks Workers United. There are roughly 250 Starbucks location statewide.

A letter urging the company not to union-bust has been signed by seven of the state’s Congressional delegates, as well as 18 state legislators.

“We are listening and learning from the partners in these stores, as we always do across the country,” a Starbucks spokesperson said in a written statement to New Jersey 101.5.

“And, 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 spokesperson continued.

Workers at Starbucks stores in Buffalo, New York, were the first to join SB Workers United late last year. As of April 1, there were ten unionized Starbucks locations, nationwide, according to the labor group.

Fair Election Principles

A letter, addressed to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz (who returned to helm the company on an interim basis in March), supports what the Starbucks union has dubbed “Fair Election Principles.”

Among its points, it advocates for Starbucks management not to bribe or threaten partners with higher or lower wages or benefits to gain support.

Workers at the Hopewell Starbucks said their location has already seen what they call “intimidation tactics by management,” amid efforts to consider unionizing there.

Pro-union pins sit on a table during a watch party for Starbucks' employees union election in Buffalo
Pro-union pins sit on a table during a watch party for Starbucks' employees union election in Buffalo (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex, File)
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“After we filed, we also experienced many of these, including captive audience meetings, one-on-one meetings with upper management intended to intimidate us, and countless flyers put up in the employee-area of our store that blatantly lie to us about unions," according to a joint statement released by SB Workers United.

"The latest instance has been cutting our labor, which are hours of work that many workers depend on not only to pay their bills, but also to qualify for essential benefits like health care.”

Baristas say they feel "unseen and unheard" on working conditions in recent years.

“When I started at Starbucks 20 years ago, I never imagined that I’d be strongly supporting an effort to unionize. At that time, I genuinely felt respected by my company,” according to Bella Griep, who works at the Hamilton store.

“Most of the time we’re severely short-staffed, it makes for a really stressful work environment,”  according to a shift supervisor at the Summit store, Janeisha Allen-Adlam.

The situation grew worse during the COVID-19 pandemic, she continued, as there were shifts when only two or three out of seven scheduled employees were working.

NJ lawmaker support

“We stand in solidarity with Starbucks workers seeking to organize in our state and our communities,” U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman said in a written statement. “New Jersey is stronger when workers have a collective voice in their pay and working conditions.”

“The pandemic highlighted how the economy has benefited big corporations and the wealthy at the expense of working people. All workers should be able to organize for better wages and fair working conditions free of intimidation,” U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross said in the same joint release.

Norcorss himself is a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 351.

In addition to Watson Coleman and Norcross, U.S. Reps. Andy Kim, Mikie Sherrill, Frank Pallone, Donald Payne and Bill Pascrell also endorsed the union's efforts to get a fairness pledge from Starbucks' CEO.

The following state legislators, all Democrats, also signed the same letter:
Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz, Sen. Richard Codey, Sen. Joseph Cryan, Sen. Patrick Diegnan, Sen. Vin Gopal, Sen. Fred Madden, Sen. Troy Singleton, Sen. Brian Stack, Sen. Shirley Tuner, Sen. Andrew Zwicker, Assemblyman Craig Coughlin, Assemblyman Daniel Benson, Assemblyman Herb Conaway Jr., Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak, Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, Assemblywoman Ellen Park, Assemblyman Anthony Verrelli, Assemblyman Joseph Egan

Erin Vogt is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at erin.vogt@townsquaremedia.com

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