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Denton’s Rayzor Ranch Starbucks location has filed for unionization

Denton’s Rayzor Ranch Starbucks location has filed for unionization

Denton’s Rayzor Ranch Starbucks location has filed for unionization
April 14
08:45 2022

Starbucks’ Rayzor Ranch location in Denton has announced plans to unionize and recently petitioned for an election with the National Labor Relations Board.

“In doing so, we believe we are following our partner values of acting with courage, challenging the status quo […] and especially finding new ways to grow our company and each other, and hope that our voices will be heard,” the Rayzor Ranch union committee announced in an open letter to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on March 29. 

The location is one of the largest stores in North Texas, according to the letter, and would be the first in the area to unionize.

“I’m excited for people to realize that corporations really don’t care about us and it’s up to us to lead the movement,” said Vince Martinez, a barista of almost four years and a member of the union committee.

Martinez said they have seen Starbucks decline over the years for ‘partners’ — the corporation’s preferred term for employees. 

“People think we are against Starbucks,” Martinez said. “We’re not against Starbucks — we are Starbucks and we’re trying to better the company itself.”

Rayzor Ranch is not alone in its efforts, with over 200 Starbucks locations nationwide having announced plans to file for unionization, according to an online map run by A More Perfect Union. These movements are being assisted by Starbucks Workers United, whose organizing committee is made up of workers from Buffalo, New York, where the first U.S. Starbucks unionized in December.

“We are listening and learning from our partners and the stores, as we always do, across the country,” said Abbey, a Starbucks representative who was identified by only her first name per company policy. “From the beginning, we have been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners without a union between us and that conviction has not changed.” 

Union committee member Alex Wells told the North Texas Daily that the unionization effort was prompted by staff frustration over understaffing, management’s response to COVID-19 and recently cut hours.

In early January, many workers at Rayzor Ranch were out sick with COVID-19. Wells said the remaining workload, normally carried out by a team of seven to 10, was “absolutely insane” for a staff of four people per shift. Wells also said, during this time, employees who expressed health concerns were forced to come to work.

“I’m immunocompromised — I have serious respiratory issues,” Wells said. “[…] To be told my manager is here to support me but at the same time is telling me I need to come in, can’t apply for sick leave, can’t apply for COVID leave and I just need to think about basically quitting for a month when she said this is just the beginning of multiple infections — that scared me.”

While COVID-19 infections in the area have decreased, Wells said the partners have noticed another issue come up over the past few weeks: a shortage of hours. 

“I usually work 20 hours a week,” Wells said. “This week I work 14 hours, the next week I am down to four and a half.”

Moo Amassyali, a union committee member and barista of almost a year, said Starbucks employees need to work an average of 20 hours a week to keep their health benefits, as well as stay eligible for the full tuition coverage program through Arizona State University. For Amassyali, the union effort is in hopes of alleviating stress over whether their next paycheck will be enough to afford the cost of living over the next few weeks or if they are not working enough to keep their benefits. 

The lack of available work hours is being felt in Starbucks locations across the nation, Amassyali said.

“We always schedule what we believe the store needs based on customer behaviors and that may mean a change in the hours available, but to say we’re cutting hours wouldn’t be accurate,” Abbey said. 

Eligibility for healthcare benefits is not calculated on a week-by-week basis, Abbey said, but is measured by cumulative hours twice a year. Abbey did not know how eligibility was calculated for Starbucks partners involved in the ASU program and did not respond to follow-up communication from the Daily.

Since the March 29 announcement, Martinez said Rayzor Ranch has received multiple calls of support from surrounding Starbucks locations.

“A lot of us really care about each other and I don’t do this for myself,” Martinez said. “I’m doing it for the partners [who] can’t.”

On April 12, the Denton Starbucks Workers United Twitter account announced the Rayzor Ranch location had officially petitioned for a union election with the NLRB. To do so, the union committee had to show support for the petition from at least 30 percent of employees, according to the NLRB

Wells said approximately 35 to 40 people work in the store, with roughly 56 percent having expressed being in favor of unionizing. The next step for Rayzor Ranch will be the union election, run by the NLRB, which has not been scheduled yet. The election will be completely anonymous and run either in-person or by mail.

“It gives me hope for the future and the youth in America,” Amassyali said. “I’ve been seeing that Gen Z is able to make a lot of change and so hopefully this could contribute to something on a bigger scale.”

The union committee said they have seen a positive reaction from community members. Wells received a $10 tip with “Union Strong” written on it, while Amassyali said some customers are submitting mobile orders with the same phrase.

“Denton focuses a lot on local, which is good, but most of the time they’re very against big-name companies,” Martinez said. “So, seeing that a big-name company is unionizing, it’s kind of empowering to local communities as well because they realize that local people are part of this big company and we’re going against it.”

Featured Image: Alex Wells sits outside of the Rayzor Ranch Starbucks on April 10, 2022. Photo by Lindy Jenkins

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Ileana Garnand

Ileana Garnand

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