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Palmer Township Starbucks employees picket for union contract

The exterior of a strip mall Starbucks from the outside
Ryan Gaylor
Workers at the Starbucks at 3712 Nazareth Rd. passed out flyers criticizing the store's recent cuts to their hours and asked customers to support the union in upcoming contract negotiations.

PALMER TWP., Pa. – Employees of Starbucks in Palmer Township held a Valentine’s Day picket outside their coffee store Tuesday to raise awareness of their efforts to secure a union contract.

  • Union members at the Starbucks in Palmer Township passed out fliers criticizing the company Tuesday
  • Fliers highlight their issues with understaffing, which they think a union contract could fix
  • Employees at the store voted to unionize last year, the first in the valley to do so. So far, they have been unable to negotiate a contract

Union representatives stationed in front of the store passed out flyers criticizing the company’s decision to cut employees’ hours, arguing that it creates problems for customers and employees — problems a union contract could solve.
The Palmer store’s employees voted to establish a union in October, part of a national wave of union action at the coffee chain.

It was the first Starbucks in the Lehigh Valley to unionize, followed by Whitehall Township’s location in December.

“We just want to tell our customers Starbucks is cutting labor at all their stores, and they're citing low business despite the record-breaking profits,” said Audrina Clewell, the Palmer store’s liaison for the union’s National Contract Action Team.

“It's causing us, the workers, to be financially stressed or overworked. The customers are experiencing significantly longer wait times."

Clewell said the workers were "just asking customers to stay with the union as we fight this retaliation, and just kind of looking for community support.”

Among first to negotiate

The Palmer Starbucks is among the nation’s first to enter negotiations with the coffee chain, because of pending renovations to the store.

Under the National Labor Relations Act, employers must negotiate with the employees’ union changes that significantly impact their employees.

That includes the sort of changes that come with a major remodeling — such as a store temporarily reassigning its employees.

“We just want to tell our customers Starbucks is cutting labor at all their stores, and they're citing low business despite the record-breaking profits.”
Audrina Clewell, the Palmer Township Starbuck's liaison for the union’s National Contract Action Team

“It's actually a big deal for our location because we're getting a taste of what negotiating with them will look like before we actually have a real contract,” Clewell said.

The process is separate from bargaining for a contract, which Clewell said the company recently reached out to begin.

“We know [negotiations are] just going to be us sitting there and them wasting our time because that's what it's been with other locations,” she said.

“We're ready to move forward [with a contract], and then there's just stuff in the way that Starbucks put there,” said Jacob Iacovone, the store’s union representative.

The company and Workers United, the national union representing Starbucks employees, accuse each other of failing to bargain in good faith, according to records from the National Labor Relations Board.

Each store with a union negotiates a contract independently. So far, none of the more than 250 unionized Starbucks have successfully arrived at one.