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Starbucks workers lose their union vote at Country Club Plaza but vow it's ‘definitely not over’

Starbucks workers around the country are banding together to form unions at their respective cafés.
Joshua Bessex
AP Photo
Workers at the Starbucks store on the Country Club Plaza have been trying to unionize since late January.

The vote to unionize the store on the Country Club Plaza was a tie, which counts as a loss, according to National Labor Relations Board rules. But pro-union workers say three votes were contested and could count in their favor.

After a six-month push to unionize, Starbucks workers on the Country Club Plaza learned the results of their mail-in ballots on Thursday: a tie. Three votes were challenged and could not be counted.

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rules state that a tie counts as a loss. But Workers United, the union seeking to organize Plaza Starbucks workers, insisted their work is not done.

Organizer Mari Orrego said the union's legal team was pushing to drop some of the challenges. And even if those votes aren’t in favor of unionizing, Orrego said lawyers will move on to the next step.

“The lawyers that have been working on behalf of Workers United, they will be giving their positions on the challenges and they will decide to drop a few of those challenges to see just what the votes are,” Orrego said. “Even if these challenge votes end up being no's, then we'll just move on to the next step.”

Orrego said that next step could be challenging the results. In May, the NLRB filed complaints against the Plaza Starbucks store and the Starbucks in Overland Park, alleging company executives had engaged in union busting efforts. Orrego said she thinks that will give pro-union workers leverage if they end up challenging the vote.

“This store has experienced union busting and unfair labor practices that we feel influenced the result of this election. So although right now it is a 9-9, it is definitely not over for this store,” Orrego said.

The Plaza Starbucks was one of the first stores in Kansas City to announce plans to unionize following a nationwide trend of Starbucks stores unionizing. Since then, three locations in the Kansas City area — one in Overland Park, a second in Independence and a third in Lawrence — have successfully unionized.

Orrego said there was another problem with the Plaza election. She said about a dozen ballots were lost in the mail.

“The fact that some ballots just don't get received is really heartbreaking because having it come down to that is just, it feels very trivial,” Orrego said.

“I know it hurts, but the way I feel about it is that these partners have worked really hard for six months and they actually continue to feel hopeful and know that no matter what happens, we will keep pushing and we'll just keep organizing.”

Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga reports on health disparities in access and health outcomes in both rural and urban areas.
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