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Las Vegas Starbucks becomes first in Nevada to unionize

Updated December 20, 2022 - 5:41 pm

A barista who helped lead the effort to vote for union representation at a Las Vegas Starbucks is hoping her store blazes a trail for more union votes at other locations.

In an 11-7 vote, held Tuesday, workers at the Starbucks at Rainbow and Oakey boulevards won a union representation vote.

The Las Vegas store is one of more than 270 Starbucks locations in the United States to successfully unionize. Since the first store won its union vote in Buffalo, New York, last December, more than 340 stores have filed for an election in 39 states, according to Starbucks Workers United.

Elkins said the effort to win a vote was made because her store’s management did not respond to requests for better treatment.

“We just wanted an even playing field in the workspace,” she said. “We wanted to be treated as equals and it was really hard because talking to management was like talking to a wall. They wouldn’t do anything for us. Now, we have an even playing field with them. We don’t have to come to work scared that we’re going to get fired or things like that.”

It’s unclear when the first union contract will be negotiated.

“Our group is ready,” she said. “We’re just waiting for Starbucks to reach out. We’re ready whenever Starbucks is ready.”

Starbucks did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Workers at the Las Vegas store filed for an election with the National Labor Relations Board on Nov. 15.

At the time, Starbucks said in a statement to the Review-Journal: “At Starbucks, we respect our partners’ right to organize but believe that working directly, side-by-side, without a third-party, is the best way to continue to elevate the partner experience at Starbucks. That said, where partners choose to be represented by a union, we respect that choice. We are committed to bargaining in good faith, and hope the union does the same. We will continue to make decisions grounded by our mission and values and aligned with labor and employment laws.”

Starbucks has voiced its opposition to the growing unionization movement among its locations, and it has been spending heavily to boost store efficiency and employee morale.

At an investor meeting in September, the company announced plans to invest $450 million next year to make its North American stores more efficient and less complex. Employees have struggled with rising demand for customizable cold drinks — which now make up 76 percent of U.S. drink sales — in store kitchens designed for simpler hot drinks.

Starbucks also announced a $1 billion investment in employee wages and benefits last fall and added $200 million for pay, worker training and other benefits in May.

Regardless of those strides, Elkins said she expects more Starbucks throughout the state to unionize.

“We’re the first, but we’re not the last,” she said. “We just got the ball rolling.”

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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