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A Starbucks in Hillcrest becomes the first location in San Diego to unionize

The city of San Diego now has its first unionized Starbucks. It’s the second in the county. KPBS Reporter Melissa Mae spoke with one of the workers about what comes next.

The city of San Diego now has its first unionized Starbucks. It’s the second in the county.

Workers at the Starbucks at University and Richmond in Hillcrest won union representation in a 15-2 vote late last week.

“I'm really proud of my store. Like, I'm so proud of my partners, because my store had every single person that was eligible to vote in this election show up and make their voice heard,” said Starbucks employee Saïx Campbell.


Starbucks refers to workers as "partners," but Campbell said he feels more like a replaceable cog in a machine than a partner.

“I want them to be the company that says that they are about partner experience as well as customer experience,” Campbell said. “Happy baristas and happy partners make great coffee and great connections with their customers. You can't have a happy barista that's worrying about where their next meal is coming from.”

Campbell said union representation "allows us the protection to ... bring our issues forward without fear of ... that retaliation being something that's going to be lasting.”

Campbell added, “We have people that have resources, (who) have the ability to help protect us as opposed to being on our own with them.”

Campbell described a few of the issues he wants Starbucks to address: “We need to be able to, one, live where you have stores and be able to pay our rent, and feed ourselves and keep the lights on so that we don't have to worry about that and continue coming into work and doing your job.”


Campbell also said he hopes Starbucks will give access to reasonable health care to all partners regardless of hours and give workers a set number of hours.

“We can't make any plans right now, based on the hours — the erratic schedules and hours that we're given,” Campbell continued, “We can't even plan to have another job to ... offset the fact that we're not making enough where we're at.”

In a written statement, Starbucks said, “We respect the right of all partners to make their own decisions about union representation, and we are committed to engaging in good faith collective bargaining for each store where a union has been appropriately certified.”

There are currently over 340 unionized Starbucks stores in the United States, but none of them have union contracts yet.