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Downtown Cleveland Starbucks employees file to hold unionized election

"We are simply cogs in a machine.…we know we can all do better.”

CLEVELAND — Hourly workers at Starbucks on W. 6th St. in downtown Cleveland have petitioned the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for a union representation election. It is the first time that Starbucks workers in Ohio have asked the Labor Board for a union vote. 

According to The Chicago and Midwest Regional Joint Board (CMRJB) of Workers United (an SEIU affiliate), an overwhelming majority of workers at the store signed union authorization cards.

In a letter e-mailed Monday to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson and signed by a majority of the store’s employees, workers wrote:

“Starbucks partners invest their safety, time, and well-being to serve at the forefront of the customer service industry, and this has been especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic. (However), we do not feel we have been adequately cared for in terms of consistent guidelines or effective safety measures… These experiences have often (led) to burnout, disillusionment, and a feeling that rather than being considered “partners”, we are simply cogs in a machine.…we know we can all do better.”

The move by Cleveland workers comes after employees at a Buffalo Starbucks made history by voting to unionize with a vote of 19-8 last month. Since then, workers at locations in Boston, Knoxville, Chicago, Broomfield CO, Mesa AZ, Seattle and Eugene OR have also filed for elections.

“In Cleveland and across Ohio, young workers in the service industry have sacrificed, while the CEOs and big shareholders rake in record profits. Workers United is proud to stand with Cleveland Starbucks partners as they attempt to win a real seat at the table, safety on the job and economic justice. Their fight is our fight, and we’ve got their backs," added CMRJB Workers United Ohio State Director Mark Milko in a statement. 

The CMRJB of Workers United represents approximately 4,000 members in Ohio. 

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