Starbucks-Union (copy)

Pro-union pins sit on a table during a watch party for Starbucks' employees union election Dec. 9 in Buffalo, New York. A Starbucks in Eugene is seeking to unionize.

A Starbucks in south Eugene has become the first Oregon location to join a nationwide movement by petitioning to become unionized with the National Labor Relations Board.

Barista Ky Fireside helped organize and collect support signatures for unionizing from 23 of the 25 workers at the Starbucks on Willamette Street. She said the main motivation was hearing of the perils of workers trying to unionize in Buffalo, New York, and the inability to contact higher-up management.

A call to Starbucks' corporate media line was not immediately returned Tuesday afternoon seeking comment.

Starbucks has insisted during previous unionization attempts that its more than 8,000 company-owned U.S. stores function best when Starbucks works directly with its employees, which it calls "partners."

"We have this issue where Starbucks calls us partners, but we have no voice," Fireside said. "We have no say. There is not an avenue for someone like me to even be in contact with anybody at any sort of executive level or really anybody above the district manager level."

Fireside said she and co-workers were inspired by the movement that began in Buffalo last month, where Fireside said workers were hit with union-busting tactics upon filing to unionize.

"Our first motivation was just seeing how poorly they treated our partners in Buffalo," Fireside said.

Fireside emphasized that the store itself is well-run, and said the manager is "fantastic," adding that the problem was more the poor relationship with the corporate level and difficulty with reaching higher-ups, and not anything to do with the Eugene store itself.

Next, Fireside said Starbucks would have to either voluntarily recognize them as a union with Workers United, or, if it doesn't, to find a date to have a formal vote on whether to be unionized and figure out who is eligible to participate.

Outside of Eugene, Seattle is the only other city on the West Coast to have a Starbucks location pushing for unionization, Fireside said.

The next step for the petition will be a legal hearing Jan. 28, Fireside said, where the NLRB will establish working conditions and hear from baristas.

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