‘I am overjoyed’: Cottonwood Heights Starbucks employees officially unionize

The vote was 11-6 for unionization. A simple majority is all that is required to pass a union election.

A Starbucks Coffee store in south Seattle on Nov. 2, 2020. The first Starbucks in Utah, in Cottonwood Heights, voted to officially unionize on Friday.

The first Starbucks in Utah has officially voted to unionize.

More than two months after petitioning for a union election, employees at the Cottonwood Heights Starbucks, located at 7025 S Highland Dr., passed a union election Friday, with 11 employees voting for the union and six voting against.

A simple majority was all they needed to elect Workers United International Union as their collective representative.

Jacob Lawson, a shift supervisor and organizing committee member, told The Salt Lake Tribune that he was “overjoyed” at the results. Since the idea of unionizing was first floated at their location, he has been the driving force behind the initiative.

“When I started this movement, everyone was under the impression that I would lead it, and I would organize it,” he said. “And they all liked that idea, because, you know, it’s kind of scary, fighting against a multibillion-dollar company.”

Lawson previously described behavior at the store he characterized as union-busting. He called the two months since the location petitioned for an election “interesting,” saying numerous “scare tactics” were used against employees. He said the store’s typical manager “just stopped showing up” around six weeks ago and before that was “rude” to customers who congratulated workers on their unionization efforts.

Lawson said he believes Starbucks sends new workers to stores that are attempting to unionize in an effort to sway elections. According to him, the company has also threatened to withhold employee raises — which they can legally do during the union bargaining phase, Lawson said. As a result, their store is going to wait to bargain for 90 days, so Starbucks cannot stop a scheduled raise in August, he said.

“The main union-busting tactic, I would say, are just, like, deceptions and just lies, with a mix of emotional manipulation,” Lawson said.

A Starbucks spokesperson refuted these allegations in an email sent to The Tribune.

“As we have said throughout, we will respect the process and will bargain in good faith guided by our principles laid out here,” the spokesperson said. “We hope that the union does the same.

“We have fully adhered to the process laid out by the NLRB and encouraged our partners to vote in the election to have their voices heard. Any allegations of union busting are false.”

The Cottonwood Heights location joins more than 100 Starbucks across the nation that have successfully unionized so far, according to a tally by More Perfect Union. A second Utah store, located at 421 East 400 South location in Salt Lake City, petitioned for an election in early May.

“They’re still super excited,” Lawson said. “... They’re giving the company hell. I’m very proud of them over there.”