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Calgary Starbucks becomes first in Alberta to unionize

A Starbucks in Calgary's Millrise neighbourhood became the first to unionize in Alberta on July 12, 2022. Global News

A Starbucks in south Calgary has become the first in the province to unionize.

Following a mail-in ballot confirmed by the Alberta Labour Relations Board, 32 baristas at the Millrise Centre coffeehouse will be joining the United Steelworkers Union.

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

“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.”

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Three other Starbucks in B.C. have also voted to join USW.

Watson said the location in Calgary’s Millrise neighbourhood has been “more than willing to provide world-class service, no matter the challenge we faced.”

“But shipping issues, quality concerns and safety problems have slowly become daily issues instead of occasional challenges,” Watson added.

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Scott Lunny, USW western Canada director, said the union is in conversations with other Starbucks workers across Alberta and B.C.

“There’s folks in these stores that actually quite like working for Starbucks. They like dealing with the customers and want to do a good job,” Lunny told Global News. “Their company is making a lot of money and they have issues that they just feel aren’t getting heard and aren’t getting dealt with.”

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Five Lethbridge Starbucks locations are awaiting the results of similar votes.

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“I think there’s a real interest right now from workers with a lot of different employers in a lot of different sectors in finding ways to have a bit more of a voice, a bit more say, a bit more control over their working lives. And the way to do that is to form a union.”

Starbucks first came to Canada in 1987 and has more than 1,400 stores.

A Victoria, B.C., location created its first collective agreement in June 2021 after unionizing with USW. In June 2022, a Surrey location voted to unionize and a month later a Langley Starbucks unionized.

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