fb-pixel Skip to main content

‘We know our rights’: Two Boston-area Starbucks become first locations in Mass. to unionize

Workers at Allston, Brookline Starbucks voted overwhelmingly to join union, and four more locations are set to vote next month.

The exterior of the Starbucks location at 277 Harvard St., Brookline. The cafe formally unionized Monday afternoon.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Employees at two Boston-area Starbucks cafes voted unanimously to formally unionize Monday afternoon — a first for the coffee giant in Massachusetts.

The National Labor Relations Board counted ballots from baristas at 1304 Commonwealth Ave. in Allston and 277 Harvard St. in Brookline, and both elected to join Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union.

Starbucks contested five votes in Allston and two in Brookline, according to Greater Boston Starbucks Workers United.

A Starbucks spokesperson told the Globe that the company will “100 percent follow the [NLRB] process” going forward.

In a statement, the company said, “We will become the best version of Starbucks by co-creating our future directly as partners. And we will strengthen the Starbucks community by upholding each other’s dreams; upholding the standards and rituals of the company; celebrating partner individuality and voice; and upholding behaviors of mutual respect and dignity.”

Advertisement



In a press conference following the ballot count at Brookline Booksmith, Tyler Daguerre, a barista at the Brookline location, said the fight is far from over.

“This is a sign that we’re not going to take corporate greed,” he added. “We’re going to keep pushing until the bargaining table and thereafter.”

Baristas at the two locations first petitioned to unionize in December, inspired by similar action at cafes in Buffalo. A total of 15 Massachusetts Starbucks — and nearly 200 across 29 states — have since taken steps to form a union.

Out of 19 formal elections across the country, workers have voted to unionize at 18 cafes.

Maria Suevo, an employee at the Coolidge Corner cafe for eight months, said that she and her co-workers “know our rights. We’re smart. And we’re not afraid to get [expletive] done.”

Baristas in Boston and beyond allege that the Starbucks corporation is retaliating against employees vying to unionize. WGBH reported that union-involved baristas saw a drop in working hours, an uptick in write-ups for arbitrary offenses, and pressure from upper management.

Advertisement



The local Starbucks effort took heed from several coffee shops where employees have unionized since the pandemic began, including Pavement Coffeehouse, Darwin’s, and three Somerville cafes. Workers at City Feed & Supply, a high-end grocery store in Jamaica Plain, also filed a petition to unionize in late March.

The two unionized Starbucks are now ready to bargain for a contract that guarantees worker protections and a livable wage, said Ash O’Neill, an Allston barista.

“The sooner that Starbucks comes to bargain in good faith with us, the sooner a contract will come in place,” O’Neill added.

They’re up against Howard Schultz, the founding CEO of Starbucks, who returned as the interim chief executive just last week. Schultz has long been critical of unions, saying Starbucks has built a strong employee culture without them.

In a confrontation with a unionizing barista in Long Beach, Calif., this weekend, Schultz said: “If you hate Starbucks so much, why don’t you go somewhere else?”

But Daguerre and his Boston colleagues have little fear.

“Understand this, Howard Schultz,” he said. “Workers don’t want NFTs. They want you to sign the fair election principles, and they would like you to stop trying to union-bust ... Play ball, and give us a living wage.

Four additional Massachusetts Starbucks locations — at Continuum in Allston, Cleveland Circle, Beth Israel Medical Center, and on Mount Auburn Street in Watertown — are scheduled for their election results on May 3.

Advertisement




Diti Kohli can be reached at diti.kohli@globe.com.Follow her on Twitter @ditikohli_.