Iowa City Starbucks the first in Iowa to move to unionize

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont questioned former CEO Howard Schultz about whether he engaged in union busting. (Source: SENATE HELP CMT/CNN)
Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 1:16 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Employees at a downtown Iowa City location have become the first in Iowa to start the process to form a union, part of a growing trend for Starbucks nationwide.

Starbucks Workers United shared a video this week from Iowa City Employees at the 228 S Clinton St. location announcing they had filed paperwork with the National Labor Relations Board. 31 employees signed the petition, including full and part-time workers and shift supervisors. If 70% of employees vote in favor to unionize, it would be the first Starbucks in Iowa to officially gain bargaining power.

“In the nearly two years I’ve been with Starbucks, I’ve learned how much I value a workplace that is safe for employees, efficient for customers and fun for everyone,” said Molly Belvo, a partner and organizer at the Iowa City location, in a statement to the Corridor Business Journal. “Instead of prioritizing these essential company standards, those at the very top of this company are focused solely on making record profits. Unionizing will ensure these needs are met and create the best environment possible.”

At least 290 Starbucks locations in 42 states have successfully formed a union after a Starbucks in Buffalo became the first in December 2021.

On Wednesday, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz defended his company’s labor practices to a Senate Committee and denied any union-busting tactics.

“We’ve done everything that we possibly can to respect the right under the law of our partners’ ability to join a union,” Schultz said. “But conversely, we have consistently laid out our preference, without breaking any law, of communicating to our people what we believe is our vision for the company.”

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (D) pushed back against Schultz, claiming the National Labor Relations Board and judges had found Starbucks guilty of hundreds of labor law violations, including firing union organizers.

“The fundamental issue we are confronting today is whether we have a system of justice that applies to all, or whether billionaires and large corporations can break the law with impunity,” Sanders said.

Republicans on the Committee defended Starbucks for creating millions of jobs and accused Democrats of using it as a political punching bag.

“The hearing today is convened to attack a private company for its success,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) said.