Workers vote to become first unionized Starbucks in Alabama

FILE - Starbucks employees and supporters react as votes are read during a union-election watch party on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in Buffalo, N.Y. It’s become a common sight: jubilant Starbucks workers celebrating after successful votes to unionize at dozens of U.S. stores. But when the celebrations die down, a daunting hurdle remains. To win the changes they seek, like better pay and more reliable schedules, unionized stores must sit down with Starbucks and negotiate a contract. It’s a painstaking process that can take years. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex, File)
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Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Starbucks has until later this week to file any objections with the National Labor Relations Board after workers at a shop in Birmingham became the first of the company’s locations in Alabama to vote to organize.

Baristas and other employees at a downtown store voted 27-1 to organize in a tally announced Thursday, news outlets reported. Documents show they would be represented by Workers United if the vote stands.

Company officials didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on whether Starbucks would challenge the vote — the latest in a series of wins for labor at Starbucks stores across the nation.

The employees had the backing of Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, who publicly expressed his solidarity with the workers. Employees who supported the union complained about a lack of respect from management.

Alex Buford, a Starbucks employee for three years who transferred to the store six months ago, also cited racial discrimination as a problem.

“There’s a lot of racial issues that we’ve been dealing with, managers purposely cutting our hours, attacking us for no reason,” she told al.com. “A lot of us have complained and the managers, they’re just not hearing us out, or they’re not really listening to us, or they say they’re listening but they’re not really listening.”

A Starbucks in Buffalo, New York, became the first in the United States to unionize late last year. Based in Seattle, the company has more than 34,000 stores worldwide.