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Latham Plaza Starbucks votes to unionize, Malta store files petitions

 A Starbucks sign
Lucas Willard
A Starbucks sign

The first Starbucks location in the Capital Region has elected to unionize, and workers at other stores in the region hope to follow suit.

On Tuesday, Starbucks workers at Latham Plaza voted 8 to 6 in favor of unionization.

“I think we’re all pretty excited about the outcome.”

James Schenck is a shift supervisor at the store off Troy-Schenectady Road. It’s the first store in the Capital Region to organize as part of a movement that began late last year when workers in Buffalo became the first Starbucks employees in the country to unionize.

“There would be no Starbucks without the partners, and so we want to be compensated adequately and fairly to reflect that success. But also we can’t do our best without having the financial stability that we need to have comfortable lives at home,” said Schenck. “And I don’t mean comfortable and lavish, I mean comfortable in knowing that food is secured for that week, knowing that I have my rent paid, things of that nature.”

Organized through Workers United, the Latham Plaza store partners will now pursue a contract.

Weeks after the Latham Plaza workers filed petitions with the National Labor Relations Board, employees at the Starbucks store in Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany did the same. A union vote there is set for June.

Meantime, employees in Malta on Monday filed organizing petitions with the NLRB. Abhaya Auva works there.

“It used to be an environment where you could really make a friend and really make a connection with someone who used to come in for their daily cup of coffee. And unfortunately, it’s going the route of literally just numbers,” said Auva.

Auva worked at the Starbucks on Broadway in downtown Saratoga Springs for about a year before the location closed in November. Since then, he’s worked at the Malta location, transferring along with a handful of other employees.

“We were given the option of either transferring to another location or taking a severance or finding new work. And it’s just so sad because we literally had partners there who had given 11 years of their life,” said Auva.

Auva said the Malta store has seen an increase in traffic and longer wait-times. He expects that to get worse as the summer season kicks into gear.

“With Saratoga being closed, we are going to start seeing – I mean, we are starting to see – more track business, because Saratoga is not there to take that from Malta,” said Auva.

Meantime, Schenck in Latham says he “couldn’t be happier” that other stores are organizing.

“Honestly, I view that as just as much a success as our own store,” said Schenck.

WAMC has reached out to Starbucks for comment. In an email last week, a statement from a spokesperson for the coffee giant says:

“We are listening and learning from the partners in these stores as we always do across the country. From the beginning, we’ve been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us, and that conviction has not changed. We respect our partner’s right to organize and are committed to following the NLRB process.”

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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