Starbucks workers in Valparaiso file for union election

Workers at a Starbucks in Valparaiso filed for a union election that could make the coffee shop on LaPorte Avenue just the second unionized Starbucks in Indiana, saying they have trouble paying their bills at a time when the company is reaping record profits.

Hourly workers at the Starbucks at 2310 LaPorte Ave., near Target at the Valparaiso Marketplace outdoor shopping mall, asked the National Labor Relations Board for union representation. An overwhelming majority of workers at the store signed union authorization cards, according to the Chicago and Midwest Regional Joint Board of Workers United.

Spokespeople for Starbucks, the Seattle-based coffee giant, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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More and more Starbucks cafes have been unionizing across the country, in keeping with a broader trend of more unionization — long common in industrial and government workplaces — in the service sector. More Americans now work in the service sector and more employees of coffee shops, bars, breweries and restaurants have sought union representation in recent years.

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The first Starbucks store unionized in December of 2021 in Buffalo, New York. More than 270 Starbucks stores in 37 states have since voted for unionization for more than 7,000 workers across the country. Starbucks Workers United said the company is now being prosecuted for more than 900 violations of federal labor laws nationwide after, for example, it failed to recognize unions or apparently failed to bargain in good faith.

Workers at a Clarksville Starbucks in the Louisville metro were the first to vote to unionize in Indiana in July. The Valparaiso cafe was the first in the Hoosier State since then to ask the National Labor Relations Board to unionize.

“Our store was the first Starbucks in Valparaiso. It was built in 2001 and has had the same manager for its entire life,” the store’s organizing committee said in a statement. “Many of our partners have worked here for four years and above. Some have worked here even longer and have become community staples and highlights customers’ morning coffee runs. We love being baristas and we love serving our community, but Starbucks as a company is making it harder and harder for us to do the things we love. Our ability to pay our bills, to keep our health insurance, to earn our sick time is diminishing while Starbucks continues to make more money than ever. We love our jobs. We want to keep them, but we can’t afford to work here unless conditions are drastically changed. Corporate does not want these changes. Unionizing is our only option.”

Starbucks also has Valparaiso locations at 2160 W. Morthland Drive and 2711 Calumet Ave. in Cumberland Crossing.

In the third quarter, the company generated a record $6.1 billion in revenue, up 15% year-over-year.

Store employees sent a letter to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz asking for better pay and working conditions.

“If we want better conditions for ourselves and to provide better service to our customers, we have to be the ones to create those conditions,” the letter signed by a majority of store employees said. “Unionization is the only real avenue for change. For challenging the status quo. For holding ourselves accountable.”