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Valparaiso Starbucks workers vote to unionize, becomes second union location in Indiana

A circular Starbucks sign featuring the company's green logo hangs next to the door of a store. Part of the Word "Starbucks" can be seen above the door.
Pixabay
In past statements, Starbucks has urged against unionizing, arguing management can address workers’ concerns better without interference from a third party.

Workers at a Starbucks in northern Indiana voted to unionize over the weekend. By creating Indiana’s second union Starbucks, those workers are set to enter a bargaining process that has been contentious for many locations nationally.

Workers United, the union representing over 278 Starbucks stores nationwide, announced in a statement that 16 of the Valparaiso location’s 21 employees voted to unionize late Friday.

The vote comes a month after the workers announced their intent to unionize. At that time, organizer and barista Reagan Skaggs said part of the reason for unionizing included struggles to make a living despite uniquely high hourly wages compared to the rest of the industry.

“If we don't make 40 hours, we don't get a paycheck worth 40 hours,” she said in a January interview. “We get a paycheck worth 30 hours or 20 hours or 12 hours. And that's a lot less money to work with even at $15 an hour.”

The lack of hours also prevents workers from accessing Starbucks’ unique benefit offerings, she said. Starbucks pushed back in a statement, claiming they give workers many opportunities to pick up extra hours and allow part-time workers to still get benefits.

READ MORE: Upcoming worker vote could make Valparaiso home to Indiana’s second union Starbucks

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This vote comes about seven months after a Clarksville Starbucks in southern Indiana became the state’s first to unionize.

Workers there went on strike briefly in December over allegations that Starbucks had failed to engage in good-faith negotiations.

READ MORE: Starbucks employees in Clarksville join national weekend strike

Organizer and barista Mila Wade said in an interview during the strike that company lawyers showed up to a bargaining session only to leave before it could begin.

“I knew walking into it, we all knew walking into it, that nothing was going to happen,” Wade said. "Starbucks was just doing it to say that they were doing it, but at no point were they intending to actually bargain with us.”

Workers United has lodged multiple federal complaints alleging surveillance, threats and other coercive, illegal actions at union stores including Clarksville.

National Labor Relations Board officials alleged in an August complaint that the company withheld benefits from 261 stores, including Clarksville, to “discourage” unionization.

In past statements, Starbucks called allegations of bad-faith negotiations “completely untrue.”

As Valparaiso workers were preparing to vote Friday, a federal judge in Michigan placed a cease and desist order on the coffee chain, prohibiting firing any employees nationwide for union activity after several allegations of such behavior at other stores.

Adam is our labor and employment reporter. Contact him at arayes@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @arayesIPB.

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Adam is Indiana Public Broadcasting's labor and employment reporter. He was born and raised in southeast Michigan, where he got his first job as a sandwich artist at Subway in high school. After graduating from Western Michigan University in 2019, he joined Michigan Radio's Stateside show as a production assistant. He then became the rural and small communities reporter at KUNC in Northern Colorado.