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Starbucks workers in Independence become the first in Missouri to vote for a union

The parking lot of a Starbucks location.
Carlos Moreno
Starbucks on 39th Street in Independence is the second store in the Kansas City area to vote to unionize.

Workers at Starbucks in Independence said they hope to bargain for better working conditions and wage increases.

Starbucks workers at 39th Street in Independence voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to become the first Missouri store in the giant coffee shop chain to unionize.

Baristas and shift supervisors at the café voted 17-3 in favor of organizing to bargain with the multinational coffee company as members of the Chicago & Midwest Regional Joint Board of Workers United.

A group of workers gathered at the store on Tuesday afternoon to watch the result of their vote, which was read live from an office of the National Labor Relations Board.

CJ Miller, a barista at the café, said the outcome means workers at that location moved one step closer to forming a bargaining unit to negotiate pay and benefits with their bosses.

“It's been incredible to watch it happen,” Miller said, “to watch the partner support grow in this store and to see how passionate some of these partners are about the idea of having their voices heard and making sure that they're fairly represented.”

Miller said employees at the store will decide on a union committee in the coming days before negotiating a contract with the regional management of the coffee chain.

He said the union hopes to negotiate wage increases.

“We really hope through collective bargaining that we can show them that this is pay that we need and pay that will also benefit them and will overall improve the customer experience,” Miller said. Employees also alleged discrimination and unsafe working conditions at the store.

Skyler Mickey, a barista at the store, said she was not comfortable working under some of the conditions.

“They put us through a lot of really not sanitary work conditions,” Mickey said. “I realized how wrong that was for not only us but for the people who came to our store.”

The union push comes after a flurry of employees at nearly 200 Starbucks stores across the country have petitioned to form unions. Starbucks Workers United helped the Independence employees organize.

Baristas at the café in Independence became the second group in the Kansas City area to vote to unionize at a Starbucks. Workers at a store in Overland Park voted to form a union last month. Starbucks contested several votes in that election.

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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