Another Colorado Springs Starbucks votes to unionize as Denver workers sound alarm over recent layoffs

Baristas at another Starbucks in Colorado Springs voted to unionize, bringing the total number of organized stores to six out of several hundred statewide.

The results, announced Thursday by the National Labor Relations Board, were just the latest development in a statewide organizing campaign among the coffee giant’s employees. Last month, baristas at three other locations in Denver and Springs won their elections.

They join a number of stores across the country seeking entry into the Workers United chapter of the massive Service Employees International Union. Employees in hundreds of locations in at least 25 states have filed union election demands since a store in Buffalo, New York, became the first to make the move last December.

Store workers Centennial Ave. in Springs, who won their election on Thursday, say they hope to achieve more regular hours through collective bargaining. Many have seen their weekly hours drop in recent months, said barista and organizer Mick Magdaleno.

“I sat about 35 hours a week and got down to my twenties,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense and we want more control because people are quitting.”

Fired union baristas say company targeted them

The results – 12-4 – come as the union sounds the alarm over a series of layoffs at recently organized Denver stores. Workers United filed complaints with the NLRB this month about four firings the company allegedly made in retaliation for workers who voted to unionize.

Starbucks, in official documents, said the firings were made for health or performance violations. In a statement to the CPR, the company called “categorically untrue” claims that layoffs were carried out in response to union support.

“We have fully honored the process established by the NLRB and encouraged our partners to exercise their right to vote in elections to make their voices heard,” the company said.

The company is also seeking to overturn union election results at a store on East Colfax Avenue. This complaint is still pending review by the NLRB.

“These are all false tactics to delay negotiations,” said Malachi Dray, an organizer with the Service Employees International Union. “The workers are not discouraged.

Barista Monique McGeorge worked for Starbucks for a year and a half until she was laid off last month.

The reason? Dropping off a cake, picking it up off the counter, and handing it to a customer, according to her termination letter and official statement to managers. Following the fall, a customer complained to management.

“It was a stupid mistake,” she told CPR. “I would have taken a note. But that’s not a dismissable offense, in my opinion.

It was the first time she had recorded a performance strike for a mistake at work, she said.

The cake pop accident happened on May 6, as McGeorge and fellow store employees Holly St. and Leetsdale Dr. were voting on whether to unionize. The election results came in on May 19 and she was fired on the 24th, according to her dismissal letter.

Starbucks did not respond to questions about the events leading up to McGeorge’s firing.

She recently got another job at a nearby department store, but she misses the camaraderie and flexibility she had in her job at the cafe.

“I believe for some reason they’re trying to eliminate Starbucks and union support,” McGeorge said. “They are reducing the hours. They do all kinds of crazy stuff.

The union is planning a rally in support of the laid off workers this Saturday at the state Capitol, according to Workers United.

Shortened hours at Holly and Leetsdale stores, other Denver stores

Workers say layoffs and the departure of some employees who cannot put in enough hours are worsening labor shortages at unionized stores. The company is closing a unionized store in Ithaca, New York, due to “staff and attendance” issues, NPR reported.

This week, the Holly and Leetsdale site closed for a day and announced it would permanently reduce its opening hours from 6.30am to 2pm, according to a sign posted on its door. The sign did not give a reason for the changes.

Matt Bloom/CPR News
A note to customers is posted outside Holly St. and Leetsdale Dr. Starbucks in Denver on June 7, 2022. The store is reducing its hours, which workers say is due to a labor shortage. work caused by recent layoffs.

“Our apologies!” read a sign posted on the front door and walk through. Nearby, another large sign with “NOW HIRING” in bold black letters hung from the front window.

Store hour changes are appearing at other unionized stores in Denver, including the 16th Street Mall store and the East Colfax location, according to Workers United.

Layoffs haven’t been an issue at Colorado Springs stores yet, said Bradley Kurtz, barista and organizer at Academy Blvd. location in sources. The store’s recent union election was declared a tie, and the NLRB is reviewing the count.

However, turnover is still high at Kurtz’s store because pro-union workers are seeing their weekly hours cut, he said.

“A lot of people just started looking for another job,” Kurtz said. “People try to hang on for as long as they can, but a lot of them don’t.”

Magdaleno, the barista at the Centennial store, said the disputes between the union and the company in Denver were concerning.

“But we’re still excited,” he said. “We want to reach out to many more stores in the area about the organization to help keep the momentum going.”

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