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Workers at a Springfield Starbucks store move to unionize

Michele Skalicky
Workers at this Starbucks store at 631 S. Glenstone Ave. in Springfield have moved to form a labor union.

In a letter to the Starbucks CEO, employees wrote their store "has experienced overlooked discrepancies and wrongdoings."

An effort is underway by employees at a Springfield Starbucks to unionize.

Workers at the Starbucks, 631 S. Glenstone Ave., have filed for a National Labor Relations Board election to join the Starbucks Workers United movement, which includes seven St. Louis stores and three Kansas City stores.

A spokesperson with Workers United said a St. Louis Starbucks store became the 150th Starbucks location to unionize on Tuesday.

Johnie Tindle has worked as a barista for five years at the Springfield Starbucks that’s pushing to organize. He said there are several reasons they’re doing so.

“We just feel like we’re ignored, that there’s a huge disconnect between what decisions are being made at the top of the company and handed down to the rest of us that actually have to live with it," he said, "and we feel as if needs to be a company where decisions are made more from the bottom up than the top down.”

Tindle said many employees rely on their jobs at Starbucks to make ends meet, but they often aren’t given enough hours to pay their bills.

He said 70 percent of store employees signed union authorization cards.

One of them is Bryan Gaskey, a shift supervisor who’s worked at Starbucks for three years. He said the company gave employees extra pay, benefits and support during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic but then took them away. That’s when he said he saw the benefits of unionizing.

"Once a union push started, like, mobilizing, you could see more of what you could, like, negotiate for at the table like instead of corporate just telling you what they're going to give you and when they're going to give it to you, or if they're not going to give it to you, like I feel like unionizing is the best way to get our voices heard," said Gaskey.

Employee Sarah Sproull got the ball rolling by contacting a union organizer to see what they needed to do. She started as a shift supervisor a year ago and said when she started, she wanted to be able to make a difference.

Sproull feels that employees at the Starbucks where she's employed aren't given enough support from the people above them, and she wants her voice heard.

"Just getting a word from them every once in awhile is better than what we're getting now," said Sproull, "so, being able to project our voices together with a union is a lot nicer. That's what I'm fighting for."

A statement provided to KSMU by the press division at Starbucks headquarters reads, "We are listening and learning from the partners in these stores as we always do across the country. From the beginning, we’ve been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us, and that conviction has not changed. As Rossann Williams, (executive vice president) and president, North America, shared with our partners 'the vote outcomes will not change our shared purpose or how we will show up for each other… We will keep listening, we will keep connecting and we will keep being in service of one another because that’s what we’ve always done and what it means to be partner.'”

Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.