Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

They were the first Starbucks to approach unionizing efforts in New Mexico and now they are the first to vote yes.

Organizers of the Starbucks on Rio Grande and Interstate 40, one of the busiest locations in the city, announced Thursday that their location voted in favor of unionization on a 10-7 vote. Now, employees of the store will wait for the vote to be certified by the National Labor Relations Board in the next couple of weeks.

“I don’t think it’s still hit me yet,” said Jacob Sherwood, an employee of the Rio Grande Starbucks and a main union organizer. “But all the hard work and dedication I put into this, and especially for my other coworkers (that were) part of this, it’s just like a breath of fresh air.”

Meanwhile, a store in Santa Fe that previously petitioned to unionize has withdrawn that request.

Once the union vote is certified for the Rio Grande location, Sherwood said store workers will begin the bargaining process with Starbucks Corp. in an effort to improve employee benefits.

Sherwood said his store will ask for the same non-economic requests of Starbucks Workers United, the larger organizing group, such as shoe vouchers for employees every six months “so you don’t have to pay out of pocket” for work shoes. Starbucks Workers United is also asking for disaster pay and a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment.

“As we’ve said throughout, we will respect the NLRB’s process and bargain in good faith with the stores that chose to be represented by Workers United,” a Starbucks Corp. spokesperson said Thursday. “We hope the union does the same.”

The vote to unionize comes nearly three months after workers from Starbucks on Rio Grande and Interstate 40 signed a petition to unionize.

At the time, Sherwood, 22, said employees — more than 30 at the time — felt overwhelmed due to being understaffed. The Starbucks location has since lost nine employees, Sherwood said, and workers at the location are still frustrated.

“Oh definitely, it’s a high turnover store,” Sherwood said. “Most of the time, people get hired, do the two weeks of training, then never come back. It doesn’t help that Starbucks wages are on par with other local coffee shops and lack any sort of competitiveness.”

Starbucks Workers United says more than 240 stores have unionized across the country. At least one other New Mexico store in Santa Fe filed a petition to unionize in August but has since withdrawn its request, said Fernando Hernandez, a union organizer with Workers United Western States Regional Joint Board.

Workers United represented both New Mexico stores that planned to unionize.

Naomi Martinez, a volunteer organizer for the Starbucks Workers United’s southwestern region, said the union vote for the Albuquerque store was a win for its employees. She added that the victory can lead to more stores showing interest in unionization in the future.

It is possible, however, that Starbucks Corp. or another involved party can object to the vote, effectively delaying the certification process. But Martinez said she sees no reason for Starbucks to do that.

Starbucks Corp. this week said it wants to begin contract negotiations with the hundreds of stores across the country that voted to unionize.

Martinez and other organizers have shown concern about the timing of Starbucks Corp.’s announcement, which came just a month after the company asked NLRB to temporarily halt all elections.

“This win, along with the non-economic proposals, will hopefully push a new wave in this region,” Martinez said. “This proves to workers that they can do this.”