Cary store becomes 1st Chicago-area Starbucks to unionize

The vote to join an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union was 17-4 in a count supervised by the National Labor Relations Board.

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This is a Starbucks sign in a coffee shop in Pittsburgh, Nov. 13, 2021.

Workers at a Starbucks in suburban Cary on Tuesday voted 17-4 to join a union.

Gene J. Puskar/AP file

A Starbucks store in suburban Cary has become the first in the Chicago area whose employees have voted for union membership.

Workers at the Cary store, 620 Northwest Highway, voted 17-4 to join Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union. Mailed ballots were opened and counted Tuesday by the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that oversees union organizing.

Three challenged ballots, cast by workers whose eligibility to vote was in dispute, were unopened but are not enough to change the outcome.

The Cary workforce joins Starbucks baristas in at least 14 states who have voted for collective bargaining rights. Employees at the stores petitioned the NLRB to affiliate with Workers United.

An organizing tracker posted by the pro-labor group More Perfect Union said workers at 32 Starbucks have voted to unionize, while the union was voted down at three stores. Each store would have its own bargaining unit.

Starbucks has about 9,000 stores in the United States.

Ballots will be counted May 6 for a Starbucks at 38 S. LaGrange Road, LaGrange. The NLRB is scheduled to count mailed ballots from employees at three Chicago stores June 7. The stores are at 155 N. Wabash Ave., 2543 N. California Ave. and 1174 E. 55th St. 

Also on Tuesday, the NLRB counted ballots from a Starbucks in Peoria. The vote there was 9-2 favoring the union.

Starbucks workers have cited better pay and benefits and more say in scheduling as among their priorities. The company, which had no immediate comment Tuesday, has stated it supports the right to organize but regards employees as “partners” who don’t need a union.

Some employees have said the company has taken a hard line against organizing. At NLRB hearings, the company has repeatedly been turned down in its request for have union elections cover all stores in a given district rather than store-by-store. Districtwide votes could have made it easier for the company to defeat organizing drives.

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