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Starbucks in east Louisville petitions to become first unionized store in Kentucky

Since last December, Starbucks workers at more than 135 stores from around the country joined the Starbucks Workers United movement.
Published: Mar. 18, 2022 at 12:18 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The Starbucks on Factory Lane in east Louisville could be the first to unionize in Kentucky.

Since last December, Starbucks workers at more than 135 stores from around the country joined the Starbucks Workers United movement, and are organizing with the Workers United labor union.

The union said there have been over 20 unfair labor practice charges filed against the corporation.

18-year old Nathan Potter said he started working at the Starbucks on Factory Lane part-time two months ago.

“I think everyone realizes that we are not being treated as we should be,” Potter said.

One month after working, he gathered 30 signatures from coworkers, filed a petition to the National Labor Relations Board, and became part of a national movement.

“People are looking around and the structures that they exist within and think, is this how it is and has to be,” Potter asked. “Or, could it be better?”

“A lot of people here are trying to balance Starbucks on top of another job, or going to school,” Potter added. “To see executives, like the CEO, getting a 39 percent raise last quarter. To see them get tens of millions of dollars while we down here are struggling to pay for rent, food, transportation just to get to work. It is really disheartening to see.”

Potter said the wages are $12 an hour for baristas, while the living wage for the county is $14.11, if you do not have any dependents.

The belief, Workers United International Vice President Kathy Hanshew said, is that Starbucks has violated workers rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

“These workers, they know that they work for a multi-billion dollar corporation, they are tired of their terms and conditions at work,” Hanshew said. “It is not just an issue of better and pay, they have a lot of health and safety concerns.”

Michelle Eisen said she knows firsthand that it takes courage to be the first. She was a barista at one of the first locations that filed a petition in Buffalo New York in August 2021.

She said during the pandemic the multibillion dollar company didn’t make employees feel taken care of.

“It gives those workers a voice on the job for the first time, probably ever,” Hanshew said. “And that is really what a lot of us are fighting for.”

The vote needs 50 percent plus one to pass.

Eisen said they would not be surprised if other Starbucks stores in Kentucky follow suit and petition to unionize.

“My hope is that once our store becomes unionized, in light of it becoming public, other stores in the area will know it is possible too just like the Buffalo Store showed it was possible for me,” Potter said.

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WAVE — Louisville and Southern Indiana's NBC affiliate. Follow us on Twitter & Instagram @wave3news.(WAVE)

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