Business

Cherry Creek Starbucks Workers Vote to Unionize

The Starbucks at 250 Columbine Street
The Starbucks at 250 Columbine Street Katrina Leibee
The Starbucks at 250 Columbine Street in Cherry Creek is one of the larger, more aesthetically pleasing outlets in the coffeehouse chain, full of spacious workspaces and seating. Right across the street is the Halcyon, where the rooms range from about $360 to $2,000 a night.

When I stopped in on June 14, the day after workers here had voted to unionize, I ordered the latest drink offering, a tall chocolate cream cold brew that cost me $5.13, in addition to the $2 I'd paid to park on the street. That added up to almost half of Denver's minimum wage of $15.85 an hour.

Most of the patrons here — businesspeople talking through paperwork, a mom feeding a snack to her two ballerinas and baby, others lounging around with their eyes glued to their Apple products — can afford the prices. But can the workers? Their June 13 vote made this the fourth store in Denver and the seventh in Colorado to unionize.

Overall, 46 Starbucks locations have held elections to unionize in the month of June alone, according to the National Labor Relations Board, and nearly 300 Starbucks locations have filed to hold elections.

"Our hours have been cut drastically in the past few months, and it's been difficult to even survive off the hours we've been given," says Ashyih Secrest, a nineteen-year-old who's been working at the Cherry Creek store since last September. "With wages, lots of people who have been a partner for seven years are getting paid almost exactly the same as people who were just hired. Across the board, we're just not getting paid enough." Secrest is paid $16.37 an hour.

At the beginning of February, Secrest and a few other employees formed an organizing committee and began working with Starbucks Workers United to hold an election. According to Malachi Dray, an organizer for Starbucks Workers United, complaints about understaffing and even unsafe conditions in the stores led to the latest unionization efforts. On May 19, three stores in Colorado voted to unionize; some employees were fired afterward — including Monique McGeorge, a Colorado Springs employee who was let go on May 24, reportedly for dropping a cake pop on the counter on May 6 and then giving it to a customer.

"It's been nerve-racking for everyone to see the retaliation at other stores, [but] it didn't deter us from unionizing," Secrest says.

According to Starbucks, any firings at the unionized locations were not related to the vote. On its website, however, the company notes that some benefits may be excluded at stores where workers are holding elections to unionize.

Nataly Marquez, a 21-year-old employee who has been with the Cherry Creek store since April 2020, says that workers are hoping a union will help with hours, wages and benefits. During the winter months, a lot of the employees' hours were cut; she says that at the time, she only got 16 to 24 hours a week. Employees have to clock a minimum number of hours in order to qualify for benefits, and she wasn't meeting those numbers. Although she's doing better now, she's still paid just $16.37 an hour.

Marquez also fears retaliation, pointing to another store in the district, the Starbucks at Tremont Place and the 16th Street Mall, that she says saw the loss of some employees after they unionized. The employees at the Cherry Creek store are now banding together to "make sure Starbucks knows they can't get away with that," she adds.

But since the union vote was just two days ago, it's now a waiting game for the workers. "We're not sure what's going to happen," admits Secrest.
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