OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An ongoing battle for a better work environment and a better hourly pay between Starbucks and its employees has been happening since December 2021.

The first Starbucks to unionize was in Buffalo, New York.

The Starbucks location on 23rd and Robinson in Oklahoma City became the first store to unionize in Oklahoma on May 23.

“Today [May 23, 2022], we have become true partners in our organizing for a more just labor structure, where workers have a say in their workplace and earn a baseline living wage,” said Collin Pollitt, a barista that led the unionization movement at 23rd and Robinson. “We have reined in corporate power, and we carry on the banner of Martin Luther King Jr. with the idea that all labor has dignity.”

The other two OKC Starbucks locations to join the union include:

  • 63rd and Grand
  • 36th and May

Five stores altogether in the larger OKC metro have pushed for unionization, but two didn’t receive a majority vote to do so.

Pollitt said as of Monday afternoon, over 220 locations across the U.S. have joined the union, saying it’s “historic and very empowering.”

He added the work the union is doing though doesn’t stop there, and so he, along with other Starbucks employees organized a rally at the capitol’s steps on Labor Day.

Speakers who shed light during the rally included:

  • Mauree Turner, Member of the Democratic Oklahoma House of Representatives
  • JoBeth Hamon, Oklahoma City Councilwoman
  • James Cooper, Oklahoma City Councilman
  • Nick Singer, Oklahoma County Assessor Candidate
  • Melinda Alizadeh-Fard, Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor Candidate
  • Collin Pollitt, Oklahoma City Starbucks Barista and Union Organizer

“I am here to support the workers. If you have today off, you can thank a union because they’ve made Labor Day possible. I support all workers. All work is important,” said Alizdeh-Fard.

“This is a day of empowerment for all workers. A lot of these ideas that we’re talking about are nothing new. They’ve been dormant in labor history, and we’re here to revitalize them again,” Pollitt stated. “We’re here to reign in corporate power and hold Starbucks accountable.”

Pollitt claims there have been challenges along the way, including union busting by Starbucks.

“There have been over 300 unfair labor practices filed against Starbucks. Of those, they have been consolidated into 21 major complaints, 80 of them have found been found to have merit by the NLRB, the National Labor Relations Board,” Pollitt explained. He also said there have been 600 separate allegations of employer misconduct.

An OKC Starbucks shift-supervisor, Collin Pollitt told KFOR when his store started to unionize, the upper management threatened union employees with “corrective action, including separation” if union literature was posted around the store.

“This was union literature that was posted months before and no notice given at all beforehand,” he said.

Both Hudgins and Pollitt are asking Starbucks for “respect and dignity” along with better pay raises.

“This is actually my second time [working for] Starbucks. My first time, I was with the company for three and a half years and was making less than baristas who had started six months prior. And despite even going back, going to my boss, all he was able to get me was like a 50 something, 53 cent raise,” said Kat Hudgins.

She added she was told she had to start back on an entry-level barista pay.

“Minimum wage has been stuck for over 20 years and inflation and the cost of living have not been stuck. So the only thing that’s been stagnant are the wages and they need a little help,” added Alizdeh-Fard.

“The law is clear: once a store unionizes, no changes to benefits are allowed without good faith collective bargaining. Partners still have access to all Starbucks benefits already in place when the petition was filed, but any changes to your wages, benefits and working conditions that Starbucks establishes after that time would not apply to you and would have to be bargained.”

Starbucks posted on their website

“I feel like they [Starbucks employees] deserve a living wage. I feel like they deserve to stop being intimidated by corporate for organizing. I feel like they deserve a seat at the bargaining table,” said Starbucks union supporter, Logan Carleton.

Hudgins said Starbucks has made no effort to meet them at the bargaining table though.

“Yet they haven’t they have not actually come to the bargaining table. They’ve stalled. They’ve they’ve given reasons why they won’t. They’ve just ignored our emails. We’re just asking them to be accountable to the things that they say they’re doing,” Hudgins told KFOR.

Starbucks has also posted on their website that the company plans to spend $1 billion on wage hikes, improved training, and store innovation during the 2022 fiscal year.

Pollitt plans to continue rallying in support for this cause until Starbucks meet their needs.

Pollitt told KFOR there has been an out pour of support from customers, saying, “We’ve actually had a lot of support come through our store. We’ve had people come in order drinks under the name Union Strong. Union Strong Jim. Union strong Jill. It’s been awesome. They’ve been coming into the store in masses and hopefully tipping us. It’s been very empowering.”