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Nothing Symbolic to See Here: Workers at MOA Starbucks Move to Unionize

Solidarity inside Bloomington's mammoth shrine to consumerism.

Meet Minneapolis via Flickr

Starbucks is scared. The world’s largest coffee chain begged its old CEO, anti-union bruiser Howard Schultz, to come out of retirement to squash the union wave that has hit 200+ Starbucks shops, including four Minnesota ones—St. Paul, St. Anthony, and two in south Minneapolis.

Add the first-floor Starbucks at Mall of America in Bloomington to the list. An “overwhelming” number of workers at the café signed union authorization cards, according to SEIU-affiliate Starbucks Workers United.

Workers at the MOA shop announced their “proud” unionization move in an email sent Wednesday to Schultz. “We believe we are upholding the mission and values that were once celebrated—to nurture the human spirit; one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time,” they stated.

Will workers at the third-floor MOA Starbucks be joining the effort? We asked Starbucks Workers United organizer Esau Chavez. “We don’t talk about union efforts at stores that have not gone public yet,” he said, perhaps slyly.

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So far, only 17 unionizing Starbucks have held their NLRB-officiated union elections: 16 wins, one contested loss. That may seem small, considering Starbucks has around 9,000 corporate-owned U.S. locations, but the prospect of worker empowerment has the coffee giant shook. “If you hate Starbucks so much, why don’t you go somewhere else?” Schultz, a 68-year-old man worth $3.9 billion, reportedly barked at 25-year-old barista Madison Hall last week in Long Beach. The company is actively retaliating against pro-union workers, the NLRB alleges, and ramping up anti-union corporate hirings, though TikTokers have flooded those job posts with 40,000 phony applications.

Have the unionizing Minnesota shops experienced any union-busting tactics?

“We have seen a lot of myths being told and blatantly false information be shared; it’s a real shame Starbucks is fighting their workers,” Chavez reports. “Despite union-busting efforts, the energy remains high, and we excitedly await the [ballot] count days for the stores here in Minnesota.”

Speaking with Racket in February, Starbucks barista Kasey Copeland sounded undaunted.

“We are a little nervous about the union-busting tactics Starbucks has been employing, but that doesn’t add up to their mission and values,” she said on behalf of her 30 coworkers at 4712 Cedar Ave in Minneapolis. “They don’t scare us.”

Chavez provided an update on when ballots will be counted at Minnesota’s unionizing shops: 300 Snelling Ave. in St. Paul on April 27 and Cedar Avenue on May 2. Ballot counting goes down in mid-May at 5351 Lyndale Ave. S. in Minneapolis and 3704 Silver Lake Rd. NE. in St. Anthony.

Should the worker yeas outweigh the nays: blammo, the first unionized Starbucks locations in Minnesota. Workers would then have to fight for their first union contracts, a process that Starbucks certainly won’t make easy.