Oak Creek Starbucks employees speak out about trying to be the first in the state to unionize

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OAK CREEK, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A Starbucks in Oak Creek is the first in Wisconsin to seek union representation.

Employees at the location on Howell Avenue announced last week they're joining the national movement to unionize Starbucks stores across the country. A majority of the store's employees have signed union authorization cards and petitioned Starbucks' CEO.

One of the organizers says those employees want higher wages, stronger benefits, and more of a say in COVID protocols. They say they were inspired after two Starbucks stores in Buffalo successfully voted to unionize.

Shift Supervisor Sydney LeBarron-Fahl said, "We hope to start bargaining as soon as we place our votes and the votes go through."

In recent days, the baristas joined the Starbucks Workers United movement, and they are prepared for pushback from the company.

LeBarron-Fahl said, "I think management, of course, is a little taken aback and preparing for some tactics to get us to not form the union."

LeBarron-Fahl said 30 people work at the store and a majority signed union authorization cards and a petition demanding union recognition.

Their emailed letter to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson cited former Governor Scott Walker's previous efforts to weaken unions, adding, "We are proudly standing together 11 years later, both as Starbucks partners and Wisconsinites, to speak up for what we believe in as a store and as a state."

LeBarron-Fahl said, "We do expect to have a lot of corporate coming through the store, and a lot of people in general to show their support."

The AFL-CIO's Milwaukee area labor council is also firmly behind the efforts, saying in a statement: "We are going to be fighting alongside our union siblings at Starbucks in Oak Creek until justice is won, and they have secured their first union contract."

LeBarron-Fahl acknowledged, "This is a big deal, because it is the first in Wisconsin. So I hope it inspires other stores to try and organize if they want."

Workers at the Oak Creek Starbucks want a response from the coffee chain's CEO by this coming Thursday.

Employees inside the store referred us to the Starbucks media office, but calls and emails for comment were not returned.

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