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Covington Starbucks workers overwhelmingly reject unionization

COVINGTON, Ga. — Covington’s Starbucks employees have overwhelmingly voted not to unionize — bucking a recent trend in Georgia that has seen stores in Atlanta and Augusta vote to do so.

The vote by all full- and part-time baristas and shift supervisors was 18-4 against organizing under the Workers United union banner, according to a spokesperson for the National Labor Relations Board.

Covington workers represented the third Starbucks in Georgia to seek a vote on unionization when they filed April 15 with the NLRB, which oversaw the election May 31 and June 1.

Those eligible to vote were all full-time and regular part-time hourly baristas and shift supervisors employed by Starbucks Corp. store No. 9980 at 3130 Hwy. 278 NW in Covington during the payroll period ending May 1, 2022. 

One local worker, Ben Scott, stated that, “Going into the vote a lot of us had high expectations.”

“Most of the store was shocked to see how we lost the vote,” the worker said. 

He said the unionization vote had “a lot of support when it was first brought up, with almost 90% of the store wanting to sign a union card so we can go into a vote.”

However, some problems with the building’s ceiling led to the store’s temporary closure, he said.

“I think that killed a lot of interest with how long we had to wait,” Scott said.

He added, “Overall, I still think we won. Starbucks is supplying a new benefits package and raises, so most of the thing in that package we were going to bargain for.”

The vote followed decisions by baristas in Augusta and on Howell Mill Road in Atlanta to unionize. The Howell Mill Starbucks workers voted 10-1 Monday to approve a union, according to WSB-TV.

More than 100 Starbucks locations have voted to form unions out of the company’s 9,000 U.S. locations.

However, Starbucks has fought hard to give its side of the argument against unionization to workers — who recently stated they were averaging around $12 an hour in news reports.

An online question-and-answer notice posted by the company titled “We are one Starbucks,” stated in part, “Every partner, unequivocally, has a choice about who will speak for you in your workplace. 

“You can choose to speak for yourself – for YOUR specific wants and needs – by working directly with us. Or you can choose to have someone else speak for you. Working together, directly, we can quickly define what is needed most – and where.” 

It also stated in its online message to workers, “Unions are a business, just like Starbucks – only unions make their money from member dues instead of great coffee. 

“Union dues are taken out of member paychecks whether they voted for the union or not. These dues are used to pay for their office overhead, staff salaries and other expenses such as political contributions. 

“If your store is unionized, Workers United may make you pay dues to continue working in your store. Any dues that are collected from member paychecks would go to Workers United, not to partners.”

In the same notice, the company also warned that, “It’s come to our attention that some of our partners are being bullied by Workers United organizers.” 

It stated the company offers health and mental health insurance, retirement savings, paid time off, parental leave, 100% tuition coverage through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan and more.