Employees at a La Quinta Starbucks became the first in the Coachella Valley to organize a labor union.
Ande Hernandez has served coffee at the Starbucks store on the corner of Highway 111 and Jefferson Street in La Quinta for the last seven years. Her location voted 5-4 in June to unionize after a months-long campaign calling for a legally protected seat at the bargaining table.
"It gives the partners a voice, it brings us representation at the table. And that's something that we haven't had," Hernandez said. "By having the union that gives us that power, it gives us protection."
In April, workers – which the company calls "partners," from the La Quinta Starbucks sent a letter to CEO Howard Schultz about their intent to form a union. The letter called for change and said workers were "happily exploited and pressured to take on more responsibilities while dealing with constant shortages of supplies and workers."
Hernandez said a key demand is earning a livable wage.
"We see how much a cup of coffees costs, and I see how much I make," Hernandez said. "Those two are not adding up."
A Starbucks representative wrote in a statement to News Channel 3: "From the beginning, we have been clear that we will respect the NLRB’s (National Labor Relations Board) process and bargain in good faith with the stores that vote for union representation. We are grateful for each partner who continues to work, and we always do our best to listen to the concerns of all our partners."
"Our CEO has famously said that he does not want to recognize the union or enter the new code, the contract negotiations," Hernandez said. "It's disappointing."
According to the National Labor Relations Board, one unfair labor practice claim has been filed by the La Quinta location and is set for a hearing in October.
Hernandez said by acting with courage and challenging the status quo, their new union demonstrates a commitment to the company and will bring in necessary change.
"Hopefully, we will be able to put a stop to misinformation being spread and managers acting illegally," she said.
220 Starbucks stores in 33 states have won union elections. It comes 8 months after the first store successfully voted to unionize in Buffalo, NY.