Ithaca Starbucks workers vote to unionize

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Starbucks workers in Ithaca celebrate after the vote count. (Photo courtesy of Casey Moore)

BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — Starbucks workers in Ithaca voted to unionize last week. They’re the latest in a wave of unionization efforts at Starbucks stores across the country.

All three of Ithaca’s Starbucks locations are now part of the Starbucks Workers United union.

“Today, we unionize a store that is not even four months old. That really shows that the unions are in the future for Starbucks. And I hope that Starbucks will get behind that,” said Hope Liepe, a barista at a location on South Meadow Street in Ithaca.

The employees said Starbucks management has used union busting tactics, such as denying time-off requests and writing up workers.

“It’s been a lot of hours getting cut, a lot of support managers coming in and just kind of breathing down your neck during your shifts,” Rebekkah MacLean, who works at a Starbucks on College Avenue.

The Ithaca Commons location is one of three Starbucks stores now part of the Starbucks workers union. (Megan Zerez/WSKG)

A spokesperson from Starbucks called claims of union-busting “categorically false.”

Starbucks employees in Buffalo became the first in the country to unionize in December. Since then, unionization efforts have cropped up at Starbucks locations nationwide. On Thursday, locations in Rochester and Buffalo also voted to unionize.

The employees said they will negotiate for better hours and health care benefits. Evan Sunshine is one of the organizers at the Starbucks on College Avenue in Ithaca. He said the workers plan to push for a tip minimum as well.

“A lot of stores in Ithaca don’t get a lot of tips. I know on College Avenue, I only get $1 in tips per week,” Sunshine said.

Nearly all of the workers at the Ithaca stores were in favor of unionizing, with only three votes against the measure.

The spokesperson for Starbucks said the company respects its workers efforts, but is against the stores unionizing.