Labor supporters rally in front of a Northwest Fresno Starbucks location on Thursday. Photos by Breanna Hardy
Written by Gabriel Dillard
Starbucks stores nationwide are unionizing one by one, but the recent vote for a Fresno store tallied unanimously against unionizing – even though the lead organizer sent in a “yes” vote.
The National Labor Relations Board posted the union vote for Starbucks at 7010 N Marks Ave Ste. 105 in Fresno yesterday, counting 14 votes — all against unionizing with Starbucks Workers United.
As lead organizer, Ben Takemoto has been the face of the movement for the store. He said his vote in favor of unionizing wasn’t counted.
“I’m frustrated that my partners were subjected to the intimidation that they were,” he said. “It’s frustrating too that none of the ‘yes’ votes were counted.”
He said he mailed his ballot on July 3, but he suspects his ballot didn’t make it in time for Monday’s count. He, along with several other partners, did not receive their original ballots and had to request new ones, he said. The process tacked on additional weeks after addresses required verification, he said.
“By the time we had done all this song and dance to get the ballots in our hands, it had been two weeks,” Takemoto said.
He knows of at least three others who did not receive their original ballots. He said there was a roster of 24 employees employed by the store, leaving 10 possible votes unaccounted for.
Even then, the majority still voted no.
Takemoto was placed on paid leave, but was reinstated after 10 days. Since then, he says work has been more stressful and chaotic. The store closes early most days, giving the impression of a mismanaged store, he said.
He and fellow Starbucks partners first sought to unionize because of discrimination at their store.
A letter to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz in April laid out a case for unionizing that included staffing problems, insufficient compensation and unresponsive management — allegation followed by discrimination and retaliation for speaking out. Takemoto saw joining Starbucks Workers United as an opportunity to give his fellow partners a voice.
He said he knew of a few coworkers who were vocally opposed to unionizing, but was under the impression that most would vote yes. He said he gave his partners an objective perspective to educate them about the process.
Takemoto said when he heard the outcome of the vote from his Workers United contact, he thought it was a joke.
“It definitely shakes my confidence in the systems that are in place. I really wish there was a way to streamline it and make it more accessible,” Takemoto said.
Store employees must wait a year before taking another union vote.
“I respect their decision and I think in a year we can revisit,” Takemoto said.