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Salt Lake City Starbucks workers planning to unionize

Posted at 6:08 PM, May 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-02 21:02:57-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Employees of a Starbucks location in downtown Salt Lake City have made the formal announcement that they want to unionize, making them the second in the state and a part of the growing trend of stores across the country to do so.

About one month prior, workers at a Starbucks in Cottonwood Heights announced their plans to form a union.

“We're feeling more like we're working under these people that are getting big raises off of the work that we're really doing,” said Kat Howard, a barista who supports unionizing.

“I think there's a lot of people who feel that way," shift lead Kit Grob added. "I think the pandemic was a great catalyst for the working class. The people who were told that we were essential workers every day are stretched thin and at the end of our ropes.”

READ: New labor data shows wages increasing, but slower than inflation

While the announcement took place Monday, those at the store say they've already received support.

“We were standing out here earlier holding signs, and so many people came by,” Grob said. "We've heard people saying it's about time, we've heard people ask me how this can be done at their workplace.”

The store is right in the heart of downtown at 400 East and 400 South — something the workers hope sends a message.

“We get people coming to this Starbucks from all over because it's close to the airport, like people will get off TRAX with their suitcases and come in,” Howard said.

“I think the other Starbucks workers in Salt Lake City are going to see us unionizing and are going to be inspired to join the movement," Grob added.

In a letter e-mailed early Monday morning to the Starbucks corporate office, as well as new CEO Howard Schultz, the store’s employees wrote:

“We were on the front lines every single day of the Covid-19 pandemic. We put our health and possibly even our lives at risk for a company that it felt, quite frankly, couldn't care less. We weren’t properly informed of exposures and were rushed back to work in order to maximize profits instead of aiming to keep everyone safe. Starbucks used this stressful time to their advantage and played the part of a socially aware company while exploiting their employees and sending mixed signals on what they truly cared about.”

Workers who spoke with FOX 13 News had additional complaints.

“The communication right now going on, it just generates a lot of empty promises,” Howard said. "They work with people that they are relying on this, like single moms and people like that work with us, and we care about these people, and so we want to raise the benefits — even if it won't just affect us.”

They also hope this inspires others outside the company to take action.

“I like to think about the kind of ripple that this is going to send throughout Salt Lake City and Utah,” Grob said.

The store still has to formalize unionizing by putting it to a vote, and they will also be holding a rally to garner support on Friday at noon.