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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — The N.W. 36th and May Avenue Starbucks crew witnessed a decisive vote count Tuesday to be represented by Workers United, a service workers union. The next move will be to form a negotiating committee.

The vote, counted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), was 14 in favor of unionizing, one against, and one vote that was challenged.

With only one challenge, NLRB staff declared the vote in favor of being represented by a union.

The 36th and May Starbucks is the second store to win their union vote in Oklahoma and joins over 150 Starbucks stores nationwide that have voted to be represented by Workers United.

After the vote, Free Press talked to Stephanie Adkins, one of the baristas at the store, about how it feels getting a strong vote behind them.

“Well, it’s a huge relief, honestly,” said Adkins. “Yeah, it’s been a little tense ever since being here [at the union hall for one of the counts] and seeing how many contested ballots have been for the other stores.”

“It’s been a huge relief to know,” Adkins continued. “I guess I was kind of not too concerned, but it is still a relief. We’re all pretty connected here and we were all pretty much on the same page.”

To show the close relationship of the baristas at that store, someone brought cupcakes and the crew shared them when the vote was over.

Some members of the Starbucks crew at 36th and May share cupcakes to celebrate the strong vote for a union Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

Unique building – unique dynamics

The Starbucks at 36th and May sits on a small corner of a very busy intersection. The store does not have a sitting area, only a walk-up window and a somewhat cramped drive-through.

The dynamic that the walk-up window creates is unique to Starbucks, at least among the northside OKC stores.

One person who is homeless has been hanging out on the intersection for about nine months to a year. He goes by “EJ” and has been a regular at the location where the baristas chipped in personally and given him food and let him use the public restroom that has an outside entrance.

Recently, EJ was arrested on an old warrant and the crew got together, set up a Go-fund-me account and started encouraging others to donate.

The NW 36th and May Starbucks in Oklahoma City sits in a small corner of the very busy intersection with no inside sitting area. The drive-up is on the left. The walk-up window is on the right. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

Eventually, the crew got in touch with The Education and Employment Ministry or TEEM and that organization provided bail for EJ to get out of jail.

Other members of the crew told us about the people who have problems in the small parking area and get into conflicts about who was next in the drive-through.

The walk-up window makes it easy for the drivers who get into conflicts to get out of their vehicles and ask the baristas to referee their conflicts with other drivers.

Benefits question

In a report earlier in the month, Bloomberg cited employees at the 36th and May store as being the latest recipients of implied threats of loss of benefits if the union vote went through.

The store is in a section of the city where 2SLGBTQ+ persons feel safer than in other areas and some crew members at that store reflect the demographic of the area.

The tally sheet used by one of the crew of the 36th and N. May store June 14, 2022. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

According to the story, Neha Cremin, who was present for the count Tuesday, had been talking with their manager who implied that employees could lose their benefits.

Workers United – the union assisting with the unionization effort – has filed a complaint with the NLRB over the comments made to Cremin leading up to Tuesday’s vote.

The Bloomberg story said that “the union Workers United accused the coffee chain of ‘threatening employees with loss of benefits’ including ‘loss of gender-affirming health care for transgender employees’ at Cremin’s store.”

Cremin told Bloomberg that she felt that some conversation with their manager had “veiled threats” of losing the gender-affirming care benefits.

Starbucks denied threatening employees with retaliation in negotiations later and said that they take pride in their benefits offered to employees. The company says that outcomes of union votes creates uncertainty, and they wanted to make employees aware of that.

Last Updated June 14, 2022, 5:30 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor