Third Santa Cruz Starbucks votes in favor of unionization

Worker and union organizer Edith Saldano heads into the store to watch the vote count.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

The Starbucks store on 41st Avenue and Clares Street voted in favor of forming a union. It is the third store in Santa Cruz County and the sixth store in California to do so.

Santa Cruz continues to be a leading figure in the historic nationwide wave of Starbucks unionizations.

On Monday, the store at the intersection of 41st Avenue and Clares Street voted in favor of forming a union. Of the 11 votes cast, eight were in favor of the union and three were against. It is the third store to unionize in Santa Cruz and the sixth in California to do so. More than 120 stores have voted to unionize nationally.

The store got the official approval for a union vote on April 5, when it was included in an agreement reached between Workers United — a union affiliated with the Service Employees International Union and representing unionizing Santa Cruz stores — and Starbucks to hold a mail-ballot election for Ocean Street and Mission Street stores, both of which voted in favor of unionization in early May.

Supporters and staff members erupted into cheers and even shed a few tears of joy Monday as the ballot count confirmed what they had expected to transpire.

Union organizer Edith Saldano (who uses gender-neutral they/them pronouns) said the results are a huge relief despite the expected result.

“If you live here, you’ll understand the need for change in this town. Many of our workers pay rent and tuition and understand as much as anyone why there must be better conditions,” they said. “What we’re working with right now is not livable.”

Saldano, 22, said that getting involved in organizing at UC Santa Cruz prepared them for this movement.

Workers celebrate the victory
From left to right: Workers Hannah Ballesteros, Mike Berlin, Edith Saldano, Katya Wills and organizer Kara Savoy celebrate the victory.
(Max Chun / Lookout Santa Cruz)

“When I was a student at UCSC, I would always be at the picket lines during student and worker strikes,” they said. “It’s important to unite the struggles and fight against Starbucks and the UC system for better conditions, and I feel very honored to be able to win this vote and move forward with Workers United.”

Union organizer Mike Berlin (they/he) was equally relieved.

“It’s easy to doubt yourself a little bit while organizing and looking towards the vote count,” they said. “Seeing the yes votes felt great, and it’s good to see that most do want to be a part of it.”

Aside from the universal requests of better pay and consistent hours, Berlin added that better training and communication will be at the forefront of negotiations.

“Our stores have had a lot of turnover, and all the baristas are stressed out because we have to do more than we should and train new hires when we’re not qualified to do so,” they said. “It’s usually just the shift leads that have their voices heard, but everyone needs to have their voices and concerns heard if we’re going to have a better workplace.”

Joe Thompson (they/them), Ocean Street organizer and Assembly District 28 candidate, was there to watch the count. They said that the continued success of Santa Cruz union efforts is a testament to the power of the youth.

“Just by looking at this movement, you can see that it’s all college students and college-age people,” they said. “We’re going to continue to fight for what we believe in, and show the benefits of having unions.”

Thompson expects that the push to unionize more stores won’t slow down anytime soon.

“I’ve been really busy with my Assembly campaign, but once election season is over, I’ll be right back into getting other stores organized,” they said. “There’s plenty of interest locally.”

Additionally, on May 25, the federal National Labor Relations Board filed an official complaint against Starbucks for illegal union-busting at the Mission Street and Ocean Street stores in Santa Cruz. Saldano says the Capitola store could be moving in the same direction now that the union is certified.

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