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Starbucks Workers in Santa Cruz Have Formed California’s First Unionized Stores

Following a vote count on May 11, two Starbucks stores in Santa Cruz are now the first unionized locations in California

Joe Thompson and fellow organizers after the election. Melisa Martinez, Starbucks Workers United
Paolo Bicchieri is a reporter at Eater SF writing about Bay Area restaurant and bar trends, coffee and cafes, and pop-ups.

On Wednesday afternoon Starbucks workers at two stores in Santa Cruz became the first employees in California to formalize their relationship with Starbucks Workers United, the national union many Starbucks partners (the company’s term for employee) have been rallying behind since December 2021. Following a vote count in which employees of stores at 517 Mission Street and 745 Ocean Street approved forming unions, workers held a rally. Starbucks Workers United organizer and Shift Supervisor at the Ocean shop Joe Thompson was barely audible over the din of cheering and car horns at the celebration held outside the 517 Mission Street location that afternoon.

The campaign is far from over, however, and Thompson isn’t planning to rest, they say. Thompson and fellow organizers in the Northern California region worked throughout the year to get these two stores unionized. Thompson is also running for State Assembly District 28 to keep the labor movement alive and thriving, they say. “Now, the biggest thing we are focusing on is holding elected officials accountable,” Thompson told Eater SF on Wednesday afternoon. “Only a handful of politicians came out to support us. We need a true labor party, and that’s why I’m running for state assembly.”

The national push to unionize Starbucks stores is gaining ground throughout the country. The two shops in Santa Cruz are now the 63rd and 64th to unionize, and a third in Santa Cruz is signing cards, the first formal step in the unionization process. Other stores that have won the vote count include five locations in Buffalo, New York; two in Mesa, Arizona; one in Seattle; and one in Knoxville, Tennessee. In California, other than their June 7 state assembly election, Thompson wants people to pay attention to two upcoming Los Angeles county votes on Friday, May 13, that will be further indicators of the union’s power in the state. After the Northern California victory, Thompson says more employees from Bay Area stores than ever have contacted them and their organizing crew. “A lot of workers reached out after the election today,” Thompson says. “We have 19 stores looking to unionize in California, and after this victory we think it’ll double at least.”

Unionized Starbucks employees in Santa Cruz. Melisa Martinez, Starbucks Workers United
Workers at a rally held in Santa Cruz after the election.
Workers at a rally held in Santa Cruz after the election.
Melisa Martinez, Starbucks Workers United
Young Starbucks workers in Santa Cruz.
The successful union vote gave the Santa Cruz employees a reason to celebrate.
Melisa Martinez, Starbucks Workers United