Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of the barista’s name. The RoundTable regrets the error.
Workers at the Starbucks store at 519 Main St., one of three stand-alone Starbucks in Evanston, have filed to organize a union.
“We’re doing this because we’re severely understaffed,” said Hannah Andersen, a barista at the store. During peak hours around 3 p.m. there are only two employees at the store, she said, when three or four would be needed to handle the rush.
“We want to build a warm environment not just for customers, but also for us,” she added.
The filing Sunday for the Main Street store follows a national push for unionization. According to the National Labor Relations Board, union petitions saw a 53% increase in the past year.
“It’s exciting, it’s progress,” Andersen said of the union petition. Despite the issues, “we can all attest that we love our jobs and we want to stay here,” she said.
Andersen said she hopes labor efforts at the Main Street store can inspire unionization drives elsewhere, including the other two Evanston Starbucks. “A lot of what we’ve talked about is to keep the momentum going,” she said.
Other employee concerns include scheduling, pay and sometimes, belligerent customers, Andersen said. Some weeks, she said she’s only scheduled to work nine hours, which is barely enough to get by. Compensation and benefits, which are tied to scheduling, are another problem, she said, citing a colleague who’s set to lose their benefits over work hours.
In a statement Tuesday, Starbucks defended its commitment to employees.
“Right now, our focus is on listening to our partners, addressing their needs, and ensuring we are delivering the very best Starbucks Experience we can offer. We support our partners’ right to have their voices heard and we are committed to listening,” the statement read.
The Chicago area previously had seven Starbucks stores that were unionized. However, in October, the company closed a North Side Chicago store that was the first to unionize before contract talks could begin. Last month, the company shuttered a Seattle store that was the first to unionize in the chain’s home city.
The Main-Dempster Mile District, where the Main Street Starbucks is located, is home to more than 200 businesses, with only a minority of those businesses being chains, according to Katherine Gotsick, executive director for the district.
She welcomed the Sunday petition by Starbucks employees. “I think Evanston in general is a real progressive town,” Gotsick said, though “every store is different.”
Workers at Starbucks at 1901 Dempster St. declined to comment.