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Starbucks employees announce plans to unionize two Kansas City-area locations

Customers carrying coffee walk out of the Starbucks Coffee shop located in Country Club Plaza. Green umbrellas with "Starbucks Coffee" printed on it can be seen along with some people sitting outdoors under the umbrellas.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
The Starbucks in Country Club Plaza is one of two shops in the metro where employees are looking to unionize.

Employees at two Kansas City-area Starbucks stores announced on Monday plans to unionize. In a joint press release, organizers at Starbucks’ Country Club Plaza and 75th Street (Overland Park) locations said unsafe working conditions and stagnant wages prompted the decision.

Eighty-four percent of workers at the Overland Park location have filed union cards, said shift manager Hannah McCown.

Additionally, a majority of employees at coffee chain’s Country Club Plaza location have signed cards, according to the release.

Employees of the Plaza location wrote a letter to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson on Monday, citing safety concerns and low wages as the impetus for their decision.

“We do not deserve our safety to be put second to profit,” the letter said. “We do deserve financial security, seniority pay, credit card tips, functional equipment, and a company that acknowledges our contributions.”

Cali Sacramento, a barista at the Plaza, said the company has been slow to address workers’ concerns.

“Our store has been on the receiving end of safety issues and concerns like leaky pipes,” Sacramento said. “People have got concussions because, as much as we tried to get things fixed, it just takes forever for stuff to get through the system for them to get repaired efficiently and on time.”

In Overland Park, employees expressed similar complaints and said their concerns have also gone unanswered.

“A lot of the times, our only bathroom will be blocked, our exit will be blocked. It's an obvious fire hazard,” McCown, the shift supervisor, said. “This has been discussed multiple times with our management and upper management on the district level and no solutions have really came up.”

An effort was made by Overland Park workers to open discussions with district representatives, McCown said, but employees have not received a response, which prompted their decision to unionize.

On Monday, both groups planned to file petitions for union elections with the National Labor Relations Board, the press release said.

The two locations’ efforts come in the wake of a successful union push at a Starbucks in Buffalo, New York, late last year. Since then, dozens of Starbucks stores across the country have announced their own plans to unionize

Workers at both Kansas City-area locations say they are now simply looking for support from the community.

“Our customers mean a lot to us, especially our regulars,” McCown said, “so that really does boost our spirit it keeps us going.”

A request to Starbucks for comment had not been returned at the time of this story's publication.

Corrected: February 1, 2022 at 8:37 AM CST
An earlier version of this story misstated the number of employees who have signed union cards at Starbucks' Country Club Plaza location.
Jacob Martin is a news intern at KCUR. Follow him on Twitter @jacob_noah or email him at Jacobmartin@kcur.org.
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