Calgary Starbucks workers become first in Alberta to unionise

Aside from the unionised Starbucks workers, the United Steelworkers union (USW) also represents 225,000 members across economic sectors in Canada

Calgary Starbucks workers become first in Alberta to unionise

Starbucks workers based in Calgary have become the first employees of the coffeehouse company to unionise in Alberta, joining a wave of employees in North America who have also opted to join a union.

These workers, based at the Millrise Centre Starbucks in Calgary, voted to get unionised through a mail-in ballot that was counted by the Alberta Labour Relations Board.

With this win, 32 Starbucks workers joined the United Steelworkers union (USW), which also represents some Starbucks workers based in Victoria, Surrey, and Langley in British Columbia.

Chey Watson, a barista from the Millrise store, said that having a "seat at the table" helps them provide the best for customers.

"We want to provide the best for our customers. Having a seat at the table lets our frontline experiences be included in corporate decisions. We have valuable input that can improve our workplace and Starbucks' reach," said Watson in a statement.

"People in our store already look out for each other. Whether it's our sense of community and friendship, or just knowing each other's birthdays, there is an understood level of respect and responsibility that we share."

According to Watson, having USW's guidance through the process has been "incredible crucial."

"We wouldn't be able to see the changes we have already seen without them. Joining the USW gives me a sense of security, respect, and appreciation. Now, we not only have each other's backs but there is a global sense of unity."

Read more: Starbucks announces ethical hiring plan

Scott Lunny, USW director for Western Canada, proudly welcomed the Starbucks workers joining their union.

"It's great to see workers coming together to demand better workplaces and we look forward to assisting them to be heard and garner the respect they deserve from Starbucks," said Lunny in a statement.

"The baristas in Calgary are joining the growing number of Starbucks workers across North America who are organising for better working conditions and wages, including employees at five stores in Lethbridge who are currently voting to join our union."

Aside from the unionised Starbucks workers, the USW also represents 225,000 members across economic sectors in Canada. It is also the largest private-sector union in North America, with 850,000 members in Canada, the US, and the Caribbean.

Read more: Starbucks Canada faces $1 million employee lawsuit

Starbucks response

Starbucks, in a statement, said that they respect their employees' right to unionise, however, it remains firm on its stance that they are better partners without unions.

"From the beginning, we've been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us at Starbucks, and that conviction has not changed," a spokesperson from Starbucks told CTV News. "We continue to respect our partners' (employees') right to organise. We will respect the process and will bargain in good faith guided by our principles. We hope that the union does the same."

Better protection for unionising workers

In a statement, the National Democratic Party (NDP) in Canada congratulated the Starbucks workers who unionised.

"Congratulations to the Starbucks workers in Calgary who have successfully unionised. This is a huge win for working people," said NDP Deputy Critic for Labour Matthew Green.

According to Green, governments should also put measures in place to ensure that workers are protected for trying to unionise.

"Workers are trying to take back their rights and governments should do everything they can to help them," said Green. "Instead, workers are exposed to corporate union busting tactics, reprisals and workplace retaliation just for trying to stand up for themselves. This is wrong and it hurts hardworking people."

"If gig workers want to unionise, governments have an obligation to support them by removing the barriers they face. New Democrats will always have workers' backs. We'll keep fighting for your right to organise and build a better, fairer future."

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