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Pickets at Starbucks? Baristas vote for possible strike in Langley, Surrey

Two unionized coffee shops are negotiating a contract with the coffee giant
A Langley Starbucks is one of two on Fraser Highway that unionized last summer. (Langley Advance Times files)

Baristas at two unionized Starbucks locations in Langley and Surrey have voted 91 per cent in favour of going on strike if they can’t reach a deal in contract negotiations with the coffee chain.

The United Steelworkers union (USW) announced the strike vote results on Tuesday, Sept. 12. It follows a final offer from Starbucks that was tabled on Aug. 29, according to USW.

“The baristas joined the union looking for respect from their employer, and quite frankly they are tired of the company dragging its feet and continuing to disrespect them by not reaching a fair deal,” said Al Bieksa, USW local 2009 president.

Hours of work and wages are the outstanding issues in the contract negotiations, said Bieksa.

He said Starbucks sometimes hires too many people, and then all the baristas suffer as hours are cut.

“These workers need better protections for stable hours and scheduling,” he said.

The union is hoping to still reach a deal at the bargaining table, or if that is not possible, it will file a request for mediation with the B.C. Labour Relations Board, the USW said in its statement.

The two unionized Starbucks locations, at Clayton Crossing in Surrey, and in the 20100 block of Fraser Highway in Langley, both unionized in the summer of 2022.

After their unionization drives were successful, the B.C. Labour Relations Board confirmed that the two locations would be treated as one bargaining unit.

READ MORE: Starbucks coffee shops unionize in Langley, Surrey

Starbucks public affairs director Carly Suppa Clark provided a statement from the coffee shop company about the strike vote.

“Starbucks has always been committed to bargaining in good faith,” the statement said. “We agree that partners (employees) at each of our union-represented stores deserve to see progress towards first contracts. That’s why Starbucks is committed to progress negotiations towards a first contract, and we continue to approach the bargaining table in good faith.”

The number of unionized Starbucks outlets remains small compared to the total number of stores, but it increased sharply in both the United States and Canada during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starbucks has announced that it reached a contract deal with another unionized outlet in Calgary in early August.

In March, Starbucks founder and former CEO Howard Schultz testified before a U.S. Senate committee about the company’s alleged anti-union practices.

Judges in the United States have ruled in the past that Starbucks illegally fired workers in that country for union organizing activity.

Starbucks has always denied union-busting activity.

Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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