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Surrey, Langley Starbucks workers vote to potentially strike

Workers voted to unionize last summer
Local Starbucks workers voted 91 per cent to strike if the United Steelworkers Union and management cannot agree to a new contract, according to the union.

Workers at two Metro Vancouver Starbucks locations have voted to authorize strike action if needed.

Baristas and other workers at the Clayton Heights Starbucks in Surrey and the Valley Centre Starbucks in Langley voted 91 per cent to strike if the United Steelworkers Union and management cannot agree to a new contract, according to the union.

Starbucks’ (Nasdaq:SBUX) latest offer, tabled on Aug. 29, included tentatively agreed-upon language that has been negotiated to date, but two key items remained outstanding: hours of work and wages, the union said in a news release.

“The baristas joined the union looking for respect from their employer, and quite frankly they are tired of the company dragging its feet and continuing to disrespect them by not reaching a fair deal,” said Al Bieksa, president of USW Local 2009, in a that release.

While there have been unionization pushes in B.C. in recent years, the number of unionized Starbucks locations lags what it was in the 1990s.

Union supporters have also criticized the company for announcing earlier this month that one of the few unionized Starbucks stores in B.C., on Dunbar, is closing at the end of September.

There were 22 workers at that café who voted to join the United Steelworkers Union in February.

The Starbucks workers in Surrey and in Langley voted to unionize last summer.

Starbucks is entering a new era, given that Howard Schultz, the man who built the company from a venture that did not sell brewed coffee to being a multinational valued at more than US$111 billion, yesterday announced that he was resigning from the company’s board.

He will retain the title “lifelong chairman emeritus,” according to the company.

Starbucks’ connection with Vancouver goes back to 1987, when Schultz bought Starbucks, which was then a company that sold coffee beans, dry teas and spices but not brewed beverages.

Schultz owned at the time a few coffee shops that he branded Il Giornale. That included stores in Seattle and a location in Vancouver at the SeaBus terminal.

When he bought Starbucks, he rebranded his small cluster of Il Giornale locations as Starbucks. He then rapidly expanded the chain in Vancouver when there were no locations elsewhere in Canada or in much of the U.S.