A Starbucks in Houston’s Upper Kirby neighborhood has become the first in the city to form a union, and the 10th in Texas, after an organizing drive that began in July.
The results of store’s union election were announced Thursday by the National Labor Relations Board. Eleven associates at the store, located on Shepherd Drive at Harold Street, voted in favor of the union. Three opposed and one ballot is being contested by Starbucks. The lead organizer, Josh DeLeon, said the contested ballot could be his own; he said he was fired Saturday, the last day of voting.
“I really don’t think the outcome is what (Starbucks) expected. I think they predominantly thought it was just myself, leading the organizing,” said DeLeon, referring to management. “I was not surprised and I don’t think anyone in the store was surprised. If anything, we were a little surprised at the three “no” votes.”
The Houston workers were backed by Starbucks Workers United, a collective of company employees organizing Starbucks stores across the country. Starbucks Workers United has the support of Workers United Upstate, a New York-based affiliate of the Service Employees International Union. Employees at a Buffalo, N.Y., Starbucks became the first outpost of the chain to unionize, in December 2021. Since then, some 200 Starbucks stores have followed suit.
As Starbucks stores across the country continue to announce union drives, the company has taken steps in an effort to counter this trend. Last week, for example, Starbucks announced several new benefits—a savings account program and student loan repayment tools—for employees who are not union members.
Employees, however, worry that those who publicly organizing efforts may face adverse consequences, including termination or the closure of stores. In July, shortly after the union drive went public, DeLeon said that the decision to organize had not been an easy because it could put jobs at risk, including his own.
Congratulations to Josh DeLeon and the workers for this accomplishment. That said, it’s one thing to vote for a union and another thing to get the mother company to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement. For the most part, companies like Starbucks have done everything they can to avoid coming to any deals with the many new unions that have cropped up. I have no idea what will happen with that, but I wish those workers all the best in taking the next step.