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Five stores in Utah are currently unionized. Four more could follow.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) George Metos and other Starbucks employees strike outside the 400 South Salt Lake City branch on Nov. 17, 2022, as part of the Red Cup Rebellion. The 4th South Starbucks is now one of five that have officially unionized in Utah. South Jordan filed for a union election on Tuesday.

In a state with one of the lowest union participation rates, Starbucks workers in South Jordan filed a petition this week to become the sixth unionized store in Utah.

The Starbucks at 1121 W. South Jordan Parkway in South Jordan was one of 18 stores across the country that filed a union election petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Tuesday.

If the vote passes and enough workers vote to unionize, they would join baristas at more than 440 other shops across the country, including five in Utah. Thirteen baristas in South Jordan are eligible for union representation, according to the filing.

“Like many other partners who have chosen to unionize, we are not against Starbucks,” Bree Nanase Barbera, a barista in South Jordan, said in a press release. “We are tired of being underpaid, overworked and ignored.”

Organizers of the 18 branches signed a letter to Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan. Their demands, according to the letter, include “higher wages, fair and consistent working hours, improved benefits, and a safe and dignified workplace.”

A Starbucks spokesman said in a statement that the company “respects our partners’ right to choose when it comes to unions.”

“We are determined to deliver on our promise to build a bridge to a better future for all Starbucks partner,” the company said in a statement.

Five Starbucks stores in Utah already have unions, the most recent being the Kimball Junction store outside Park City, where employees voted to unionize in March, according to NLRB records.

Other stores have tried and failed, including a neighboring store in Park City, according to NLRB case files.

According to the Starbucks website, that’s just a small portion of the roughly 100 Starbucks stores in Utah. But union participation in Utah is among the lowest in the country. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 4% of eligible workers in Utah are represented by a union – fewer than in 46 other states and less than the national rate of 10.1%.

Starbucks workers organized a nationwide strike in 2022 at more than 100 stores, including the downtown Starbucks at 421 E. 400 South. The strike was scheduled for a day when the franchised coffee shop expected heavy traffic as it distributed free reusable red cups. Participating Starbucks in Salt Lake City had already unionized in July of that year, two months before the strike. But workers claimed Starbucks was not cooperating fairly in collective bargaining (Starbucks denied the allegations).

Barbera, the South Jordan employee, said the baristas “exhausted all ‘official’ avenues” before requesting a union election.

“We want to preserve our jobs, but not at our expense and for the benefit of corporate profits,” said Barbera.

Shannon Sollitt is a Report for America Corps Member for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation of our RFA grant will help her continue to write stories like this one. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation of any amount today by clicking here. Here.

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