Starbucks on Howell Mill Road votes to unionize, first in metro Atlanta

A Starbucks company logo are seen in Palatine, Ill. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

Employees at Starbucks in northwest Atlanta are the latest to vote to unionize. There were 10 yes votes tallied at 2 p.m. Monday afternoon, and one no vote, in an election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board.

The majority vote comes during a mass union drive for employees at the coffee giant nationwide.

Page Smith is the lead organizer at Howell Mill Road. When Smith got done celebrating with the rest of the baristas post-union vote, they sat down and talked about what staff wants to see in their first contract.

“One of the main things we’ve been talking about since the start, is a more transparent and specific seniority and merit-like pay raise structure. We have a very diverse group of partners in terms of tenure, and how long they’ve worked with the company,” Smith said.

“And there’s not a very big pay gap between people who’ve been with the company for very long, and for people who’ve just started at our location.”

In the same vein, Smith said baristas and managers want to see a specific cost-of-living adjustment on the table amid extra expenses that come with inflation in Atlanta.

Smith also discussed a minimum tip-out from the company, so tips can become a more reliable percentage of employee earnings.

“Currently at the Howell Mill store, we make between 48 and 56 cents an hour in tips. Nobody’s really satisfied with that,” Smith said.

Smith said another main compensation point is trying to negotiate for Starbucks to cover employee healthcare premiums entirely.

“While we all qualify for healthcare at a really low hourly threshold, we still have to pay out of our paychecks a significant amount of money for that healthcare that we qualify for.”

Starbucks told WABE in a statement that the company and employees work better together without a union, but “we respect our partner’s right to organize and are committed to following the NLRB process.”

The National Labor Relations Board told WABE more than 100 Starbucks nationwide have voted to unionize, but several are still pending certification.