Employees at a Starbucks store in St. Paul become the first in the state to unionize

Pro-union pins sit on a table during a watch party for Starbucks' employees union election, Dec. 9, 2021, in Buffalo, N.Y. The top lawyer for the National Labor Relations Board said Thursday, April 7, she will ask the board to rule that mandatory meetings some companies hold to persuade their workers reject unions is in violation of federal labor law.
Pro-union pins sit on a table during a watch party for Starbucks' employees union election on Dec. 9, 2021, in Buffalo, N.Y.
Joshua Bessex | AP file

A Starbucks location in St. Paul has become the first among the retail giant's outlets in Minnesota to unionize, organizing officials said, after employees voted 14-1 in favor of forming a union.

"We're so proud to have won this victory and hope it sets the tone for more organizing In Minnesota," the Workers United union said on Twitter on Wednesday, after the vote by employees at the Starbucks at Snelling and Stanford avenues.

Workers at several other Starbucks locations in the Twin Cities also are seeking union votes.

The union also reported Wednesday that workers at a Starbucks in the Milwaukee suburb of Oak Creek voted to unionize — the first to do so in Wisconsin.

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Starbucks Workers United is working with Workers United Upstate, "a union with experience building barista power," according to its website.

The Workers United Labor Union is a subsidiary of the Service Employees International Union, which represents employees in the textiles and manufacturing industries, as well as restaurants and coffee shops.

More than two dozen Starbucks stores across the country have now unionized. More than 200 Starbucks stores have sought elections, with more added every day.

Since his return to Starbucks last week as interim CEO, Howard Schultz has appealed to employees, known as partners at Starbucks, to trust him — not a union — to make things right for them.

"My job in coming back to Starbucks is to ensure the fact that we... reimagine a new Starbucks with our partners at the center of it all, as a pro-partner company, as a company that does not need someone in between us and our people," Schultz told employees at a town-hall style meeting on his first day back.

He has said that some — not all — of the worker organizers have intentionally and aggressively sown divisions within the company while "attempting to sell a very different view of what Starbucks should be."

The National Labor Relations Board has sued Starbucks for allegedly retaliating against three employees who were involved in organizing a union.

One worker was disciplined, suspended and discharged; another was "constructively discharged" and a third was put on unpaid leave after the company revoked "recently granted accommodations," the NLRB said in a press release.

Former U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has gotten involved in the unionization efforts. He visited Richmond, Virginia, on Sunday to speak with Starbucks employees.

"I want you to understand this, because this is the b***s*** that corporations often do," said the Vermont senator. "What they say to the public — McDonald's does this as well, Walmart does it — they say, 'We're really generous. We offer health care. We have this. We have that.' And you look at the figures — nobody takes it 'cause they can't afford it."

MPR News contributed to this report. Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.