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Grand Rapids Starbucks employees file to unionize

Burton Starbucks filed to unionize.png
Posted at 4:26 PM, Mar 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-17 16:26:48-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — At the Starbucks on Burton near Breton Village, workers say 90% of the staff there is in support of forming a union.

So they put their money where their mouth is, filing with Workers United and sending this letter to corporate.

For organizers and current Starbucks employees Malena Phanle and Andrea Reinbold, this is a step towards creating a better work environment.

“I think our store took a brutal hit, in terms of COVID exposure. A lot of our staff was out. Of all the shift supervisors, it was during the holidays. At one point, it was just me and my store manager that could work. Everyone else was sick. Those were some rough shifts," Malena Phanle.

Sometimes, screaming or crying in the "back of house" was the best way to release the tension when things got tough.

“I’ve cried a lot. I think she’s cried as well. It was just like a lot. It was affecting work in the moment as well; it wasn’t just something I brought home with me. It was happening at work,” Malena said.

Andrea says they've had overwhelming support from their customers, as well as the rest of the staff.

“Being able to feel that from each other, and it actually mean something, is going to be super beneficial,” Andrea Reinbold said.

They want to form a union, rather than quitting, because they actually love where they work. They believe forming a union will only improve the store.

“Neither one of us wanted to leave, because we love our team so much. It’s not something we just want to walk away from, even though we were having a hard time with the company as a whole,” Reinbold said.

Starbucks disagrees, issuing FOX 17 the following statement:

“We are listening and learning from the partners in these stores, as we always do across the country. From the beginning, we’ve been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners without a union between us, and that conviction has not changed.”

Workers at the Grand Rapids store believe their success can be a shared one, as other Starbucks have successfully unionized across the country.

“If enough people that you work with agree with you and want to see something fixed or addressed, you can fix that,” Malena said.

She says it's time workers stand up for a voice at the table in the decision-making process.

“As workers, we are very powerful. We keep these stores functioning and running. Corporate owes a lot to the partners that allow them to be profitable,” Malena said.

Now, workers at the store are waiting for Starbucks's response, hopeful they will concede, as they have with other stores doing the same thing.

READ MORE: Union efforts grow across Starbucks stores nationally

READ MORE: Starbucks workers at 4 Michigan locations plan to unionize

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