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Starbucks workers claim victory in Overland Park union vote, first in Kansas City area

A mass of people wearing mostly blue and red hold signs that read "UAW" and wave signs and flags with "UAW" and "Unionize" in front of a Starbucks coffee shop.
Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga
KCUR 89.3
Employees at the 75th and I-35 Starbucks went on strike last month. They were joined by union and community supporters to protest unfair working conditions and alleged retaliation against workers trying to unionize.

Starbucks workers at 75th Street in Overland Park held a vote Friday afternoon to unionize, citing better working conditions, and health care benefits.

Starbucks workers in Overland Park appear to have successfully voted to form the company’s first union in the Kansas City area.

Workers at the café on West 75th Street gathered Friday afternoon as the tally was read live from a National Labor Relations Board office.

The vote came back 6-1 in favor of the union. Seven other ballots remain challenged, but union organizers say those ballots include three pro-union workers who allege wrongful firing. There is currently no timeline for when those ballots might be verified.

Hannah Edwards, a supervisor at the Overland Park location, said the contested votes should not affect the outcome.

“We're not sure how long the lawyers will take to hash out those seven other ballots but we are confident that those are not all “no's,” Edwards said.

Staff have been on strike since Wednesday alleging that management has intensified their union-busting efforts.

Efforts to unionize the Starbucks location have been ongoing since January. Last month, baristas organized a walkout effectively closing the cafe for a day, and following the termination of three employees at the location.

Emma Baldrige, a barista at the Overland Park store said they are relieved by the outcome.

“We’ve been struggling for months with this and it makes all of the challenges that we face through this entire process worth it.”

The 75th Street location was among four Starbucks cafes that were counting union votes on Friday. In particular, the Overland Park workers are demanding better working conditions and health care benefits.

“This has been discussed multiple times with our management and upper management on the district level and no solutions have really came up,” shift supervisor Hannah McCown told KCUR.

Three other Kansas City-area Starbucks are also seeking to unionize. Workers at the cafes in Country Club Plaza, 39th street in Independence, and 41st and Main in Midtown have signed union authentication cards, seeking to align with the collective Workers United.

The union push came in the wake of a successful effort by Workers United to organize workers at a Starbucks in Buffalo, New York, late last year. Since then, over 200 Starbucks locations have filed to unionize, according to NPR, and 13 already voted in favor.

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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