Baristas at one of the first union Starbucks in Chicago are on strike. Workers at the Starbucks location at 5964 N. Ridge Ave. in Edgewater are calling on the company to remedy what they describe as chronic understaffing.
Teddy Hoffman, a shift supervisor at the cafe, said workers there have been raising the alarm about understaffing for about three months. Hoffman has worked for Starbucks since 2015 and at the Edgewater store since it opened in 2018, he said.
Understaffing at the store has resulted in individual baristas doing the work of two or three workers, Hoffman said. He said workers are missing breaks and clocking out late, are not able to stay on top of sanitary requirements and are unable to “give that Starbucks experience to customers that we signed up for.”
Starbucks did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
Baristas planned to strike Friday and Saturday, with tentative plans to return to work on Sunday. The store was closed Friday, Hoffman said.
Workers there voted overwhelmingly to unionize in late May, making the store one of the first two unionized Starbucks in Chicago, along with a second location also in Edgewater.
“We’re not just striking because work is hard,” said Alison Guerrin, a barista at the store. She said she has worked for Starbucks for more than two decades and at the Edgewater store since it opened. Guerrin said that though she’s experienced understaffing before during her time at Starbucks, this period of understaffing has been longer-lasting than others.
“A lot of us have worked for this company for a long time and have seen this company be really great, and we want to be able to provide that amazing customer experience to people consistently like we have in the past,” she said.
Starbucks has opposed the unionization movement within its ranks. Nationally, the National Labor Relations Board’s regional offices have issued more than 60 charges alleging a range of unfair labor practices against the coffee giant. Last week, agency officials filed a legal action in federal court seeking a nationwide cease-and-desist order against the company for what they say is extensive illegal anti-union activity.
In Chicago, four Starbucks have voted to unionize with Starbucks Workers United, the Service Employees International Union affiliate representing Starbucks employees. Two of those stores are located in Edgewater; the others are in Bucktown and Hyde Park. Two other city stores lost union elections in June. In total, 10 Chicago-area stores have filed for elections since January, most recently in Edgewater and West Rogers Park.
As of last week, workers at nearly 300 Starbucks nationwide had filed for union representation, according to the NLRB. Out of 208 completed elections, the union had lost 28. The results of some elections remained contested.