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Westminster Starbucks votes to unionize as labor board rules in favor of another Colorado Starbucks union leader

Starbucks in Westminster votes to unionize
Starbucks in Westminster votes to unionize 00:19

In the effort among Starbucks workers to unionize, there is another win at a Colorado location.

Workers at a Westminster location voted to form a union with just one person voting "no," making them the 10th Starbucks in Colorado to vote in favor of unionization.

"Workers at the 144th and I-25 store in Westminster just won their election by a whopping 15-1," the union wrote on Twitter.

Nationwide, more than 300 Starbucks locations have unionized. 

"We believe that Starbucks should be a workplace where all workers have a democratic voice," Starbucks Workers United says on its website. "Starbucks workers, current and former, should be recognized for making Starbucks the successful company it is today. Food service workers across the country deserve better working conditions, and our union's goal is advancing social and economic justice in our community. Our union's values will be inclusiveness, compassion, joy, creativity, respect, and solidarity."

Workers have alleged long hours, unfair treatment from management and low wages, among other reasons for wanting to unionize.

Hannah Royer, a worker and member of the organizing committee at the Westminster store, said they began their efforts in January of this year.

"The labor hours cuts that were experienced company-wide was a huge catalyst towards unionizing," she told CBS News Colorado. "Our hours were cut significantly and many partners had to quit or get second jobs. These hours cuts were systematic from January to March."

RELATED: "I See A Lot Of People Struggling": Baristas At 2 Colorado Starbucks Stores Trying To Unionize For Higher Pay

Royer said there was a general sentiment of the need for unionization at that location for a while, but the national unionization efforts gave them "the courage to stand up for ourselves and our fellow workers."

"Another big reason for us unionizing is because of the neglect that corporate has shown our store for years. There has been a build-up of dirt, flies, rotten milk, etc. for years and new partners are being blamed for it and expected to clean it. We have asked corporate for an upgrade of our store for a long time and have been consistently ignored," she said. "This win means that hopefully with time we will have a true say in our workplace and the ability to make changes in our store that improve the wages, working conditions for partners and the quality of the experience for customers."

The store's union will get its official certification in a few weeks, making it official. "With Starbucks continuing to illegally fail to negotiate nationwide, there is still a lot of work to do and pressure to put on corporate to come to the bargaining table," Royer said.

In March, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz testified in front of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, "unequivocally" denying allegations that the company broke the law.

Administrative judges with the National Labor Relations Board have ruled that Starbucks has violated workers' rights "hundreds of times" in several states.

In related news, Alendra "Len" Harris, a worker at a Starbucks in Superior -- the first Starbucks in Colorado to unionize -- and union leader there said the National Labor Relations Board ruled in her favor last week after the company fired her. The NLRB is a federal agency that supervises elections for labor union representation and investigates unfair labor practice allegations.

RELATED: Starbucks location in Superior unionizes

Another hearing on Harris' case is scheduled for September but she says that recent ruling vindicates her claim that she was wrongly fired.

She says she and co-workers faced retaliation after going public with their intentions to unionize, such as having hours reduced, benefits threatened and punitive actions taken for legally-protected union organizing activities.

A Starbucks spokesman responded to questions from CBS News Colorado via email Wednesday.

"We believe the complaint and allegations lack merit and the actions taken in our Superior store were lawful and in alignment with long-established partner policies -- not in retaliation for any partners' participation in, or support of, concerted or union activities," Starbucks spokesman Andrew Trull said of Harris' case. "In this case, the partner received coaching and was subject to progressive discipline prior to separation for clear and repeated violations of established store closing standards and safe cash handling procedures."

RELATED: Some Colorado Starbucks employees join "Red Cup Rebellion" walkout

Harris said prior to their formal announcement of their intent to unionize, policies were either not well trained, not practiced, not enforced or some combination thereof. She says workers informed management many times that staff needed training or retraining on several policies.

She says an interim manager was brought in and none of those policies were revisited and none of the requested training was done. According to Harris, the interim manager started firing people over minor dress code policies or tardiness by a few minutes, something Harris says didn't happen before they announced their intent to unionize and didn't happen at stores that hadn't expressed similar intent.

Harris says the interim manager questioned her about alleged policy violations that she says were never communicated to staff as being policies, were never enforced or were due to the very staff shortages workers had been raising concerns about. After two of those alleged violations, Harris says she was fired, but only after a month and a half and the day after the union's first strike.

"It's well known among the public that I was the union leader, I was the public face in most of the articles, it was no secret that I was the one helping lead the organizing efforts at my store," Harris told CBS News Colorado. "And the day after our strike … I came in, they had me work through the busiest part of the day, through peak, and a little bit after 10 (a.m.), they pulled me aside and terminated me."

As to the more general allegations against the company, both Schultz, in his Senate hearing, and Trull, in an email to CBS News Colorado, accused the unions of delaying negotiations. A request for more information from the NLRB is pending.

Harris said her observations of working conditions in several Starbucks locations are what led to her efforts to try to secure better conditions and protections for her fellow workers.

"That set the pace for me," she said. "People shouldn't be treated this way, especially at a multi-billion dollar coffee conglomerate like Starbucks, that touts itself as being humanitarian."

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