Albuquerque Starbucks becomes first store to unionize in the state

Unfair labor practice complaints filed for locations in Albuquerque, Santa Fe

By: - September 29, 2022 4:45 pm

The Starbucks on Interstate 40 and Rio Grande Blvd. in Albuquerque is the first store in the state to unionize. (Photo by Shaun Griswold / Source NM)

A Starbucks in Albuquerque became the first store in the chain to unionize in New Mexico on Thursday.

The National Labor Relations Board counted ballots from workers at the Interstate-40 and Rio Grande location. The tally came in 10-to-7 in favor of unionizing. This makes New Mexico the 34th state with a unionized Starbucks location.

Barista Jacob Sherwood has been working at that Starbucks for about a year and was one of the leaders of the movement to unionize. He said he’s seen the same issues afflicting everyone for as long as he’s been there, like losing work hours and inadequate pay.

So the store filed the union petition on July 11, despite anti-union actions that Sherwood said came from managers. He’s been targeted by managers and getting unfairly disciplined, he said, and has seen it happen to other union supporters at the store, too, even for small concerns like dress code.

There are multiple unfair labor practice complaints at this location that are pending review by the National Labor Relations Board.

“We’ve seen a lot of discrepancy between people who are actively out and vocal about being pro-union and people who aren’t really pro-union,” Sherwood said.

Naomi Martinez is a volunteer organizer with Starbucks Workers United, a collective of Starbucks workers organizing unions across the U.S., and a shift organizer at a store in Arizona. She confirmed the disciplinary actions union leaders endured at the New Mexico store, adding that managers were constantly watching the location and holding union-busting meetings.

Sherwood said workers that supported unionizing waited nervously for months to see if enough votes would come through while they thought their jobs were on the line.

“It’s really nerve-wracking, because you can clock in, and you don’t know if that’s going to be your last shift working at that place,” Sherwood said. “There were so many times where I was brought in, and I was just really, really worried that they’re gonna find something or trying to dig something up to fire me.”

Because of all the anti-union rhetoric, Martinez said it’s not surprising how close the vote was. But now that the vote is over and people don’t feel as scared, she said she thinks more people will warm up to being unionized.

“I think regardless of the vote, now that they’ve won, I think there’s a lot of room for them to grow together and become a lot more united, even if they did originally vote no,” she said.

The vote will get certified in coming weeks, Martinez said, and then the union will set a date for contract negotiations. There’s not a set timeline yet, she said, though they hope to get a date set this year.

A Starbucks spokesperson wrote that the store will respect the National Labor Relations Board process and bargain in good faith, and hopes the union does the same. 

But Sherwood anticipates issues will continue until a contract is signed, he said. There needs to be legal accountability in place for these problems to stop, Martinez added.

“The bottom line for these higher-ups is always going to be profit, and you get so many top-down decisions that are being made with partner and corporate discussion,” she said. “And so for me, the bottom line to unionizing is that you have equal accountability to prevent them from making changes that your store isn’t OK with.”

Unionizing at other locations

Martinez said she hopes this sets off a movement of unionization across locations in the state.

“I really think that this first store in Albuquerque is going to start a second wave of excitement in the New Mexico area,” she said.

But Sherwood isn’t as sure. While he said he hopes other stores will follow suit, he met a lot of Starbucks workers with other union reps on a trip around town who were against unionizing. 

“Whether it’s because they’re fed misinformation by Starbucks, or they don’t have the whole picture, it’s hard to really tell,” Sherwood said.

With two Starbucks stores in NM set to unionize, organizers feel solidarity

Another store in Santa Fe filed a petition to unionize in August but withdrew their application last week. There are still unfair labor practice complaints filed for the store. Martinez said the management of that store was displaying unlawful behavior and engaging in similar anti-union actions happening at the one in Albuquerque, and workers got overwhelmed.

“What the store in Santa Fe went through, it shows Starbucks’ blatant disregard for just the Constitution and democracy in itself,” Sherwood said.

As of Thursday, 243 stores across 34 states have unionized as part of the Starbucks Workers United movement. Sherwood said he hopes other stores at least start conversations about unionizing.

“It’s a really surreal moment,” Sherwood said. “I hope other people start talking about this.”


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Megan Gleason
Megan Gleason

Megan Gleason is a journalist based in Albuquerque. She recently graduated from the University of New Mexico, where she served as the editor-in-chief of the Daily Lobo. Other work has appeared under the New Mexico Press Association as well as in the Independent, Gallup Sun and Silver City Daily Press.