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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — The first vote count in the state for Starbucks workers on union representation was conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Friday resulting in a provisional win for the workers.

The vote went 10 to 9 in favor of union representation. But there wasn’t any cheering as the workers gathered to watch the virtual count at the state AFL-CIO Headquarters in Oklahoma City.

Five challenges to ballots were also registered but won’t be processed until another couple of weeks have passed.

Baristas from the 63rd and Grand Starbucks in Nichols Hills were the first in the state to petition the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in February for an election to decide for or against union representation in negotiations with the Starbucks corporation.

To learn more: Nichols Hills Starbucks baristas petition for union election

Starbucks first union vote
Alyssa Sperrazza, a partner at the 63rd and Grand Starbucks, speaks to the media about the union vote and what it means. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

“This was not the result we were obviously wanting,” said Alyssa Sperrazza, a barista at the store. “But we’re still hopeful. We’re still going to be pushing forward. And, we couldn’t be more thankful for all the partners who are here today supporting — all the members of the community who have been supporting us.”

“It’s been a hard and educational process trying to unionize,” Sperrazza added. “And so, we’re still looking forward to the results. And we’ll be waiting on the NLRB to schedule a date to hear the challenge.”

Starbucks
Alisha Humphrey speaks about the Starbucks unionization vote process Friday, May 6, 2022, as Liv Brushwood (R) waits to speak. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

Another barista from the store, Alisha Humphrey, said that she was still eager to promote “workplace democracy” and to not just have a “voice for workers but also someone fighting for their rights.”

“We still have faith that’s going to happen,” said Humphrey.

Liv Brushwood, a barista at the Nichols Hills store, responded to one question from the gathered media that indeed, there has been a lot of emotion in the process. But, she calmly said, “whatever happens, we know that we put our best foot forward. We know that we did whatever we could together as partners to do this. But mostly, I’m just so proud of all of my partners that work at my store.”

Challenges are company strategy

Will Westlake, a partner in Buffalo, New York, was present to solidify organizing that he has done from a distance. The Starbucks workers in Buffalo were in the vanguard of what has become a national movement and have experienced success in getting union representation by Starbucks Workers United affiliated with Workers United, a large, established service workers union.

Starbucks first union vote
Will Westlake, a Starbucks partner from Buffalo, NY, speaks about the process of voting. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

He was confident that one of the challenges was from the union side and the other four were from the Starbucks corporation.

“Across the country, time and time again, we get into these elections, and we see challenges from the company that simply don’t meet the criteria that the Labor Relations Board [NLRB] is looking for,” said Westlake. “With one of these challenges, we know that that person was working in the store yesterday, and Starbucks wants to claim, ‘Oh, that person doesn’t work,’ so, we are really confident that when these ballots are resolved, that we’re going to have a victory here at Nichols Hills.”

Starbucks corporation is paying what is thought to be millions to one of the largest anti-union law firms in the U.S. to coordinate efforts to fight the union movement among baristas that picks up momentum each week.

‘One day longer’

The long-term President of the Oklahoma AFL-CIO, Jimmy Curry, was present to encourage the mostly young adult workers from Starbucks.

He told Free Press that “this is just one of the skirmishes in the battle.” And, “just like the old-timers say, ‘just one day longer.'”

Tim O’Connor, president of the Central Oklahoma Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, was also present along with some other long-term union members to add encouragement for the Starbucks workers.

We asked if the process of getting union representation takes patience.

“It takes a lot of patience,” said O’Connor. “You just gotta stay the course. Never give in. Never give up. Stay working. Stay positive. Just keep in the fight.”


Last Updated May 8, 2022, 8:22 AM by Brett Dickerson – Editor