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Starbucks employees in Richmond vote yes on unionization effort

People walk by a Starbucks store in Chicago on May 29. Starbucks announced that it plans to remove plastic straws from its 28,000 stores worldwide by 2020.
Scott Olson
Getty Images
People walk by a Starbucks store in Chicago.

Employees at five Starbucks stores in the Richmond area have joined a growing unionization movement. Their votes were counted Tuesday and the coffee shop employees overwhelmingly voted in support of unionizing.

Across Virginia, employees at more than a dozen Starbucks, from Roanoke to Farmville to Newport News, have all filed paperwork to unionize. But it wasn’t until Tuesday that the first set of votes were counted for several Richmond-area locations.

“I’m really excited to be a part of something so monumental for not only our store but for partners across the country,” said employee Karolina Albert in an interview after the votes were counted. They hope the effort will result in higher pay and safer working conditions.

“So that we can afford housing, because housing in Richmond is ridiculous. So we need to be able to afford those things,” Albert said. “And we think Starbucks should treat us what we’re worth.”

Votes still have to be counted in the other locations around the state. But the effort will get a boost this weekend, when politician Bernie Sanders comes to Richmond for an event thrown by Starbucks Workers United.

Sanders tweeted his congratulations as the results came in.

The locations in the Richmond area that voted yes are on Forest Hill Ave. and Willow Lawn Drive in the city. Plus on Huguenot Rd., Westchester Commons, and on Midlothian & Carmia – all in Chesterfield.

Albert has worked at the Midlothian location since the Fall.

“Some of the biggest ways you can support us…One just come in and congratulate us. Two, if you’re like doing mobile order or even doing a cafe order put down your name as Union yes or Union Strong,” they said. “We always love seeing that support.”

And their final suggestion: tip your barista well.

Mallory Noe-Payne is Radio IQ's Richmond reporter and bureau chief. She's covered policy and politics from the state capital since 2016. She was a 2020-2021 recipient of the Fulbright Young Journalist Award. She spent a year in Munich, Germany researching memory, justice, and how a society can collectively confront its sins. Her Virginia-based coverage of home healthcare workers, voting rights, and Richmond’s Slave Trail have won national news awards.