Melissa Lee-Litowitz emphasized that just because she and fellow Starbucks partners want to form a union doesn’t mean they dislike the company.
It’s the opposite.
“To us it’s a love of Starbucks that makes us want to form a union, not the things that we hate about it,” she said.
From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Nov. 18, the Starbucks at 2760 Willow Road, Glenview, held a “Sip-in” where people could learn about employees’ efforts to organize within Starbucks Workers United. Its parent organization would be Workers United and, ultimately, the Service Employees International Union.
Lee-Litowitz said the store filed to form a union on Oct. 25 but has not voted on the matter. That vote may come in December, said Lee-Litowitz, who heads the organizing committee for Store No. 247 with fellow shift supervisor Tiana Lavalle.
Thirteen other employees “and several more who wish to remain anonymous” signed a letter to Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ founder and interim chief executive officer.
Lee-Litowitz said the “Sip-in” attracted more than 50 interested people, who could speak to members of the store’s organizing committee. Public officials including U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, state Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz and Cook County Board Commissioner Scott Britton and also attended.
“It really means a lot to see a lot of support from the community to support our baristas,” said Lee-Litowitz.
According to an article on perfectunion.us, a website referred to by Lee-Litowitz, workers at 345 Starbucks stores in 39 states had filed to unionize as of Nov. 17. Some 264 stores in 36 states had won union elections, it said.
Eleven stores in Illinois have unionized, according to perfectunion.us, with three having filed and four others voting not to form a union.
“We respect the right of all partners to make their decisions regarding union issues, whether they favor or oppose representation, and in all union dealings, including collective bargaining, we will always engage honestly and in good faith,” a Starbucks spokesperson stated in an email.
“From the beginning, we’ve been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us, and that conviction has not changed. We remain committed to our partners and will continue to work together, side-by-side, to make Starbucks a company that works for everyone,” the spokesperson said.
Asked what issue Store No. 247 “partners,” or co-workers, have with management, Lee-Litowitz said there was nothing specific. A union would provide a “safety net” and allow transparent communication with co-workers, she said.
The letter the organizing committee sent to Schultz cited long hours, inadequate compensation for job duties, training practices and equipment that jeopardizes customers’ health and safety.
“If they hated their jobs they would just leave, but they don’t,” Lee-Litowitz said of her co-workers. “They care about customers and co-workers, they want to make it a more smoothly run and better place.”