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Peet’s Coffee Baristas Unionize First Cafe With Help from Starbucks Workers

“Solidarity, from coffee shop to coffee shop,” Starbucks Workers United wrote ahead of the Peet’s union vote.

A Peet's Coffee worker fills takeout orders for customers on the sidewalk in Oakland, California, on May 18, 2020.

In a win for workplace democracy, employees at a Peet’s Coffee & Tea located in Davis, California formed the chain’s first unionized shop in the United States on Friday.

Workers at the café voted 14-1 to join Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1021.

“We will not be the last,” tweeted Peet’s Workers United (PWU), which organized the winning unionization campaign. PWU is the counterpart to Starbucks Workers United (SBWU), the outfit behind dozens of successful union drives nationwide.

“Solidarity, from coffee shop to coffee shop,” SBWU wrote on social media ahead of Friday’s vote at Peet’s. After PWU won, their Starbucks allies gave them a warm “welcome to the labor movement.”

SBWU organizer Tyler Keeling from Lakewood, California played an instrumental role in PWU’s efforts, as detailed last week in Jacobin.

PWU expressed gratitude to Keeling before and after the union vote.

In November, Peet’s workers at two locations in Davis filed for union elections with the National Labor Relations Board.

In a petition asking for community support, PWU wrote: “We are overworked, understaffed, and underpaid. Barista’s raises are less than a tenth of inflation, there are pay discrepancies that do not align with seniority, skill, or any kind of logic, and we have been forced to shut down multiple times in the past month due to understaffing. We’ve had no viable recourse for removing toxic managers other than waiting for the problem to resolve itself.”

“Meanwhile, our managers have been using union-busting tactics like Starbucks to divide and confuse us,” organizers continued. “They’ve called in corporate higher-ups to have conversations about unionizing with employees, they’ve reinstated punitive scheduling and dress code measures, and posted misleading informational fliers in break rooms.”

“We are fighting for fair wages, decent schedules, and corporate transparency, but two stores against a multimillion-dollar corporation is a lonely battle,” they added. “Peet’s has always taken pride in its loyal customers and loving community, and we need that now more than ever.”

In a statement issued after workers voted overwhelmingly in favor of union representation, the company said that “while we had hoped for another outcome, we respect the right of our Davis employees to choose.”

“As we follow the legally required next steps with the union at North Davis, we will continue to work for and with our employees companywide. That is the Peet’s way,” the company added.

According to PWU, Peet’s executives went out of their way in the lead-up to the representation vote to dissuade workers from joining SEIU, including by holding anti-union captive audience meetings.

The corporation “paid a store manager from Chicago to fly to Davis to give his ‘unbiased’ opinion on unions,” organizers said. “The president of the company came in and essentially begged people to give him another chance and to put all our faith in him.”

The second Davis location that had also filed to hold a unionization vote withdrew its request last week. According to PWU, that happened because “corporate gave the entire staff… a $500 bonus for pulling their petition and for ‘giving Peet’s a chance.'”

Since December 2021, workers at more than 270 Starbucks locations across the United States have voted to unionize. Organizers have won more than 80% of their campaigns despite the corporation’s unlawful intimidation and retaliation tactics.

Keeling of SBWU said Saturday that he is “so happy to have more coffee shops unionizing.”

“The future looks bright,” Keeling declared. “The new wave of unionization will save the world.”

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