Another Starbucks may soon unionize in Utah

Five Utah stores are represented by a union so far. Four others may follow.

In a state with one of the lowest rates of union participation, Starbucks workers in South Jordan petitioned this week to become Utah’s sixth unionized store.

The Starbucks at 1121 W. South Jordan Parkway in South Jordan was one of 18 stores across the country to file a union election petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Tuesday.

If the vote is approved and enough workers vote to unionize, they would join baristas at more than 440 other stores across the country, including five in Utah. Thirteen baristas in South Jordan are eligible for union representation, according to the filing.

“Like many other partners who have chosen to unionize, we are not anti-Starbucks,” Bee Nanase Barbera, a barista in South Jordan, said in a news release. “We are tired of being underpaid, overworked and ignored.”

Organizers at the 18 stores signed a letter to Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan. Some of their demands, the letter said, are “higher wages, fair and consistent scheduling, improved benefits, and a safe and dignified workplace.”

A Starbucks spokesperson said in a statement that the company “respect[s] our partners’ rights to have a choice on the topic of unions.”

“We are committed to delivering on our promise to offer a bridge to a better future to all Starbucks partners,” the company’s statement said.

Five Utah Starbucks stores are already unionized. The most recent was the store at Kimball Junction, outside of Park City, where employees voted to unionize in March, according to NLRB filings.

Other stores have tried, and failed, including a store in Sandy, according to NLRB case filings.

It’s a small fraction of Utah’s hundred or so Starbucks stores, according to its website. But Utah’s union participation is among the lowest in the country. Roughly 4% of Utah’s eligible workforce is represented by a union, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics — lower than 46 other states, and lower than the national rate of 10.1%.

Starbucks employees organized a national strike at more than 100 stores in 2022, including the downtown Starbucks at 421 E. 400 South. It was planned on a day the franchise coffee shop expected heavy traffic as it gave away free reusable red cups. The participating Salt Lake Starbucks had already unionized in July of of that year, two months before the strike. But workers alleged Starbucks wasn’t cooperating fairly in contract negotiations (Starbucks denied the claims).

Barbera, the South Jordan employee, said baristas “exhausted all ‘official’ routes” before filing for a union election.

“We want to keep our jobs, but not at our expense and for the sake of corporate profits,” Barbera said.

Shannon Sollitt is a Report for America corps member covering business accountability and sustainability for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.