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Ashland Starbucks workers announce the chain's first union organizing drive in Southern Oregon

A grey brick building with lots of windows. There are bushes in front of the building and patio furniture on the right side. There's a large sign in the center that says "Starbucks," there's also the Starbucks mermaid logo on the left side of the building, along with a sign that says "Drive Thru"
Roman Battaglia
Jefferson Public Radio
The Starbucks store in Ashland in March, 2023 where employees hope to unionize.

Workers at the Starbucks coffee shop in Ashland have announced their intent to unionize. They’re the first store in Southern Oregon to do so.

Workers at the Ashland store are looking to join the Starbucks Workers United union to advocate for more staffing and better pay.

Organizers say they’ve been trying to form a union since last summer, but there was no concerted effort.

“We were like ‘Okay, I guess it’s time to do this,’” said Naia Duggan, shift lead at the store and a Southern Oregon University student. “I can’t rely on someone else to get this union started. We have to get our own hands dirty and we need to do what we need to do to fight for our co-workers' rights.”

Duggan said one reason it’s been hard to organize is that many staff members at the Starbucks are also students at SOU, leaving them with less time.

The workers in Ashland have been getting help from other Starbucks locations in Eugene, where seven stores voted to unionize last year.

“If I didn’t care so much about working there, I probably would have just left and not made such an effort to try to unionize it,” said Bart Tveskov, another staff member at the store. “But I would see how my shift leads would be just disheartened after trying to make any of their issues known.”

Tveskov said a big issue at the store is a lack of employees scheduled during peak hours. He said while the store has enough staff and availability to cover all the hours the store needs, managers haven’t been assigning enough staff to meet demand.

“I remember getting to work one day and there were only two people on the floor in the middle of peak,” he said. “And it was one of our co-workers who at the time was pregnant and she was promised all these accommodations by Starbucks. And she was running a floor with her and one other person having to run around the store, not given those accommodations.”

The organizers said they have 18 out of 26 staff members signed on to join the union. They’ll now have two months to pick a date to vote on whether or not to join Starbucks Workers United.

In a statement, a Starbucks spokesperson said the company works better without unions, but they respect the store’s right to organize.

“At those stores where our partners have chosen to petition for a union representation election, our focus is to ensure that they can trust the process is fair and their voice is heard," they said. "We hope that all parties will respect our right to share factual information and our perspective with partners—just as we respect the union’s right to do so—so that partners are able to make an informed, balanced decision regarding union representation.”

Tveskov said they’re holding a rally on Thursday to get more support from community members.

Roman Battaglia is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the JPR newsroom.