Unionized workers at Victoria Starbucks ‘steaming mad’ after wage increases not extended to location

Unionized workers at Victoria Starbucks 'steaming mad' after wage increases not extended to location
Nicholas Pescod/CHEK News

Workers at a Starbucks in Victoria are calling out Starbucks Canada after they say the company refused to extend wage increases to unionized staff at the Douglas Street location.

Employees at the drive-thru store, located at 3180 Douglas St, say they are “steaming mad” after they received a letter informing them they would not receive increased wages, benefits and training that was being offered to other locations across the country.

A release sent from the United Steelworkers union — the union that represents the workers at the Douglas Street Starbucks — states that at the beginning of May, employees received an e-mail from Lori Digulla, Starbucks senior vice-president and general manager, saying there would be increased pay for all retail partners in every province and every role beginning this summer.

According to the union, that e-mail was followed up with an email to Douglas Street staff informing them they would not receive the partner investments as they were a unionized store.

The workers say the store has since sent an e-mail response to Digulla, expressing their disappointment that Starbucks was refusing to include the “partners” (employees) of the unionized store and called on the coffee giant to do the right thing by extending the wage increases to them.

“We are delighted to see Starbucks taking steps to address the inability of many to afford a comfortable life. We agree that our labour is worth more and that higher wages will help us live with dignity and create the best moments with our customers,” said the partners at the Douglas Street store.

“Starbucks assured us that they would respect our choice to unionize. We feel that not agreeing with the union to extend the wage increase to our store is not respecting our choice. We understand and agree that our collective bargaining agreement must be respected. That is why there is a clause to allow for bilateral agreements for things such as extending the wage increase to our store.”

In an email statement to CHEK News, Carly Suppa Clark, public affairs for Starbucks Coffee Company says any changes to the collective bargaining contract will take place ahead of the expiration of the current contract.

“From the beginning, we’ve been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us at Starbucks, and that conviction has not changed. We continue to respect our partners’ right to organize or not to organize, and we will respect the process,” Suppa Clark said.

“In June 2021, Starbucks reached a 3-year collective bargaining agreement with the United Steelworker’s Union (USW) representing employees at our Douglas Street location in Victoria, B.C. Since then, Starbucks has fulfilled all obligations of that contract, including the negotiated annual increases, which are unique to Douglas Street partners, as agreed upon by the partners and the USW. Any changes to the contract will be negotiated by both parties in the next round of bargaining, which we anticipate will begin in the months before the contract expires in June 2024.”

The Douglas Street store voted to unionize back in the summer of 2020, voting to become part of United Steelworkers District 3, which represents over 50,000 workers in Western Canada.

The Douglas Street store, which is a corporate-owned Starbucks, was also the first location in Western Canada to unionize and in the last two years, more than 50 Starbucks stores in North America have voted to join unions.

Despite having successfully unionized, the Douglas Street store feels that Starbucks Canada has engaged in “anti-union tactics” to discourage other employees from following suit.

“What we see from Starbucks is nothing more than retaliation on their workers for joining a union. Every worker has the right to join a union without the fear of retaliation or harassment from their employer,” said Scott Lunny, USW Western Canada Director.

“There are zero reasons for these investments not to be extended to our members at the Douglas Street store in Victoria. We have language in the collective agreement, negotiated by both parties, that allows for changes deemed necessary by mutual agreement of the employer and the union, at any time, during the life of the agreement.”

The union claims that it has requested Starbucks Canada to mutually agree to extend the partner investments to the Douglas Street workers, and the request has been denied.

Lunny says they are calling on Starbucks to “do the right thing” and extend the wage increases to the unionized Victoria store, adding that employees are ready to meet with management to get a deal done.

“We know our members work as hard and contribute as much as any other partner in any other store across Canada and they should be treated with the respect they deserve,” added Lunny.

CHEK has reached out to Starbucks Canada for a comment on the Douglas Store situation and is currently awaiting a response.

Graham CoxGraham Cox

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