Second Atlanta Starbucks votes for a union

A union voting place sign is taped to the entrance of Starbucks at Ansley Mall where employees on Wednesday voted to unionize. (Natrice Miller / natrice.miller@ajc.com)

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
A union voting place sign is taped to the entrance of Starbucks at Ansley Mall where employees on Wednesday voted to unionize. (Natrice Miller / natrice.miller@ajc.com)

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Editor’s note: Story updated Thursday with comment from Starbucks.

Workers at an Atlanta Starbucks on Wednesday became the chain’s third Georgia store to vote in favor of a union.

The 11-3 vote at the Ansley Mall store, overseen by federal officials, came several weeks after workers at a Howell Mill Road Starbucks overwhelmingly voted to go union and several months after a favorable vote at an Augusta Starbucks.

“This victory means that no longer will we face our challenges alone,” said Nick Julian, a shift supervisor at the Ansley Mall Starbucks. “It means our work has value, and that we get to negotiate our wages and benefits.”

Officials at the company did not respond to requests for comment until Thursday afternoon.

The company believes that workers and Starbucks are both better off “without a union between us,” said spokesperson Reggie Borges. “That conviction has not changed. We respect our partners’ right to organize and are committed to following the NLRB process.”

The NLRB has asked a federal court to order Starbucks to stop interfering with unionization efforts at its U.S. stores, according to the Associated Press.

The company believes it has not done wrong, Borges said. “As we have said previously, we believe these claims are false and will be prepared to defend our case.”

Workers at the Ansley Mall store have complained about pay, benefits and scheduling. And while it could be months before any kind of negotiations with the company, workers now should have access to more information about how the company handles some of those issues, said Chris Baumann, regional director for Workers United, which is overseeing the organizing campaign.

“This gives the workers some legal rights they didn’t have before,” Baumann said.

The company operates about 9,000 stores.

Since the first union effort at a Buffalo, N.Y., Starbucks late last year, workers at about 300 stores have petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for the right to form a union. More than 150 have voted to approve a union thus far, although a number have rejected the idea, according to the Associated Press.

The Seattle-based company, which has long portrayed itself as progressive and worker-friendly, has energetically resisted the unionization drive. Earlier this month, the company said it would permanently close a store in Ithaca, N.Y., that had voted to unionize.

Employees there accused the company of retaliation. The company said it based the decision on other factors.

Approval of a union is just one step toward achieving what the workers say they want. Their union now must negotiate a contract with the company, a process that can drag on for years.

Just 5.8% of employees in Georgia are represented by a union, ranking 43rd among the states, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.