PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Baristas working at the Starbucks in Providence’s One Financial Plaza Center have joined the nationwide movement to unionize the coffee chain, 12 News has learned.
In a letter recently sent to Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan, the workers made clear their intentions to file a union petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
“We’re struggling to make ends meet while the company tells us there are not enough hours to be given,” the letter reads. “We refuse to be overworked and lied to. We know the company boasts record-breaking numbers each quarter.”
“We exhaust ourselves working outside of our availability and endlessly scrounging for extra shifts … which negatively impacts our health, both physically and mentally,” the letter continues. “We deserve living wages with consistent hours and benefits to support ourselves and our families while working here.”
This is the second Starbucks in Rhode Island to file a union petition since the nationwide movement took off nearly two years ago. The Pace Boulevard store in Warwick attempted to unionize last year, but failed to do so after the vote was deemed too close to call.
If successful, the One Financial Plaza Center store would become the first unionized Starbucks in the Ocean State.
“I am finally able to feel like I have a voice,” One Financial Plaza Center shift supervisor Dalia Cerezo said. “As the working class, we need to stand up for ourselves and not be afraid of the company that is taking advantage of us.”
“We’re saying ‘no’ to these unlawful labor practices and bad conditions,” barista Juani Cantu Marroquin added. “We won’t allow the company to treat us so poorly and exploit us.”
More than 360 Starbucks stores across the country have successfully unionized since December 2021. Since then, the Seattle-based coffee giant has been racking up federal labor law violations with the NLRB in what is believed to be an effort to stunt unionization efforts.
In a statement to 12 News, a Starbucks spokesperson highlighted the recent steps it has taken to increase hourly wages and improve employee benefits.
“As a company, we believe that our direct relationship as partners is core to the culture and experiences we create in our stores,” the spokesperson said. “To that end, wherever we can quickly and broadly improve partner benefits and perks, our history demonstrates we have.”
Starbucks recognizes that some employees feel differently, according to the spokesperson, which is why the company respects their right “to organize, freely associate, engage in lawful union activities and bargain collectively without fear of reprisal or retaliation.”
The spokesperson added that Starbucks “welcomes the opportunity” for One Financial Plaza Center store employees to vote in a neutral, secret ballot election on whether to unionize.
“In advance of the union representation election, our focus will be to ensure that [employees] can trust the process is fair and their voice is heard,” the spokesperson wrote.