Starbucks at Howell Mill first Atlanta-area store to approve union

Atlanta coffee shop joins one in Augusta in vote to organize.

The Starbucks store on Howell Mill Road has become the first of the company’s stores in metro Atlanta to go union.

In a vote conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, non-management employees at the Starbucks voted 10-1 in favor of being represented by a union.

The company, which has aggressively fought the series of union campaigns that began last year, has long portrayed itself as a worker-friendly chain, providing generous benefits. But workers speaking out during the recent organizing drive have told a somewhat different story, often arguing that the company’s compensation and benefits had not kept up with those provided by many other employers.

Starbucks workers have asked for better pay and more reliable hours.

The company has responded with a threat to provide higher wages and benefits only in stores that are not unionized.

At least 85 of Starbucks’ 9,000 company-operated stores in the United States have voted to unionized since December, and at least 10 stores have rejected unions, according to the NLRB.

At least 26 stores representing 7,244 workers have petitioned to hold elections, according to the Associated Press.

Just 5.8% of the workforce in Georgia is a member of a union, ranking 43rd among the states, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Earlier in the spring, a Starbucks store in Augusta was the first in Georgia to approve a union, but Howell Mill was the first to do so in metro Atlanta.

Approval of a union is, however, only 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.