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Published Thursday, March 28, 2024 in The Everett Herald

Mill Creek Starbucks Votes 21-1 to Form Union

"We obviously are kind of on the high of that win," store bargaining delegate Zach Gabelein said.

By Aina de Lapparent Alvarez

Mill Creek Starbuck Votes 21-1 to Form Union

MILL CREEK — Workers at a Starbucks in Mill Creek overwhelmingly voted to unionize Wednesday, hoping to get better staffing, pay and benefits.

When a National Labor Relations Board representative read aloud the results, the employees erupted in cheers at the store, located at 164th Street SE and Bothell Everett Highway.

Zach Gabelein, the store's elected bargaining delegate, said there was an "exciting atmosphere" after the votes were tallied.

"We obviously are kind of on the high of that win," he said. "I'm very excited about that win."

They join 25 other Starbucks locations in the state and over 400 nationwide that have formed unions.

The vote makes the Mill Creek location Snohomish County's third unionized Starbucks. The Broadway and 37th Street location in Everett became the first to unionize here in June 2022. One year later, the Lakewood Crossing store in Marysville followed suit.

Last month, Gabelein and his coworkers filed for unionization, along with 20 other stores across 14 states, making it the single biggest filing day for Starbucks stores. Of those, 15 stores have held elections so far, with all but one voting to unionize.

Leading up to the vote, Gabelein said most employees had one-on-one meetings with managers telling them they should vote no.

"They don't think it's right for our store," he said. He recalls managers saying they'd like a "second chance."

A Starbucks spokesperson declined to comment on the meetings.

On the Mill Creek union vote, the spokesperson said the company respected "the rights of our partners to organize and bargain collectively, and we look forward to reaching ratified agreements in 2024 for represented stores."

Gabelein said filing for unionization has already yielded results.

Starbucks fixed a malfunctioning faucet that employees were complaining about since the fall.

"That has never been a priority it seemed until now," he said. "It's a little bit of proof that our actions have created the results we're looking for."

He said three employees did not cast a vote: Two were unavailable and the third was indifferent towards unionization.

Now, the National Labor Relations Board must certify the election's outcome.

Starbucks workers first voted to form a union in 1985. A few years later, the union dissolved amid a decertification campaign. Between 1992 and 2021, only Starbucks employees who worked for other companies, like supermarkets, were unionized.

The current campaign began in 2021 in Buffalo, New York.

Since 2022, the National Labor Relations Board found labor law violations in 48 out of 49 cases against the company.

In late February, Starbucks said in a statement it had agreed to start discussing a "foundational framework" for organizing and collective bargaining. The statement also said in-person bargaining for all unionized stores will start in late April.

Looking at the contract proposals the union is working on, Gabelein doesn't want to hang up his apron anytime soon.

"If (Starbucks) would agree to this, I would be a lifelong person at Starbucks, " he said. "It's something that I would like to retire with."