Albuquerque Starbucks workers partake in national strike for union rights

Bargaining process for local store has yet to begin, despite union tally passing six months ago

By: - March 22, 2023 5:00 am
A group of people hold up pro-union signs outside of Starbucks.

Starbucks workers and supporters strike the company on March 22, 2023, fighting for union rights. (Photo by Megan Gleason / Source NM)

At an Albuquerque Starbucks normally packed with customers looking for a morning jolt, one single car crept through the drive-through. Another woman who drove up to get her coffee decided to go somewhere else.


Starbucks workers and supporters picketed in front of the Old Town location off Interstate 40 and Rio Grande Blvd. on Wednesday as part of a national strike pushing for union rights and better working conditions.

This comes amid allegations of anti-union action and sentiments from Starbucks around the nation. Over 250 stores in the U.S. have voted to unionize. The Albuquerque Old Town location is the first and only store in New Mexico to successfully pass a vote to unionize.

Albuquerque Starbucks becomes first store to unionize in the state

Madz Dazzo is a barista working at the Albuquerque location and a leader in the store’s unionization process. She said since the vote to unionize passed the National Labor Relations Board about half a year ago, workers have been struggling with disciplinary actions in the workplace.

The store has yet to begin the bargaining process too.

Instead, she said management is writing workers up, including herself, for things they normally wouldn’t be punished for, like being a few minutes late to work or forgetting to do a COVID check. Workers supporting the union have seen their hours cut as well, she said, forcing people to get second jobs to support themselves.

Starbucks spokesperson Andrew Trull said the company denies allegations of union busting and has honored the National Labor Relations Board process.

“To the extent claims have been brought against Starbucks for violation of labor laws, the company strongly denies any wrongdoing and has committed to exercising its right to defend itself,” Trull said via email.

Starbucks Workers United, a national collective helping stores unionize, is pursuing multiple lawsuits against the coffee company, which the company is actively fighting.

Tiffany Martinez is a shift supervisor at the Albuquerque Old Town location. She said management has remarked they cut hours because the workers aren’t utilizing their time well, which she denied. Martinez said wait times at this location have shot up due to the lack of people working at a given time.

“On a daily basis, we struggle with the amount of people that we have,” Martinez said.

She said workers will likely suffer more negative consequences from management after this strike. “I’m sure they’re gonna be looking for reasons to write people up,” she said.

A woman holds up a pro-union sign outside of Starbucks.
Tiffany Martinez strikes outside of the unionized Albuquerque Starbucks she works at on March 22, 2023. (Photo by Megan Gleason / Source NM)

Martinez said it’s nice to know that New Mexico workers aren’t the only ones striking on Wednesday because they’re struggling to get better working conditions. “Other partners are out there, feeling the same thing that we are,” she said.

There are more than 100 stores with workers on strike on Wednesday, according to Starbucks Workers United. However, Trull said Starbucks hasn’t seen that number reflected in operations and nearly every store still remains open for customers.

“Rather than publicizing rallies and protests, we encourage Workers United to live up to their obligations by responding to our proposed sessions and meeting us in-person to move the good faith bargaining process forward,” Trull said.

Dazzo said Starbucks has been causing issues of its own at the table. She brought up an instance where company officials walked out of a bargaining session just minutes after it started. Workers have also said they believe the company has deliberately stalled some bargaining sessions and processes.

At one point during the Albuquerque strike, a woman who had just parked in front of the Starbucks asked the picketing workers if the location was unionized. Dazzo and Martinez told her yes but working conditions were still bad, and the woman decided not to get coffee from there after all.

As Martinez and Dazzo held up their pro-union signs off of the busy street in front of the store, passing cars honked in support. They think they’ve been deterring people from the store all morning on Wednesday.

A slow-to-start bargaining process

The unionization process for the New Mexico location has been slow-moving. The National Labor Relations Board counted the ballots in favor of unionization six months ago, but the bargaining process still hasn’t started.

Trull said it can’t start at that location until Starbucks Workers United assigns a union representative. Trull added that there are over 50 stores around the county that also can’t start the process for the same reason.

Naomi Martinez is a volunteer organizer with Starbucks Workers United. She said the board hadn’t heard about any request for the organization to assign a representative to the Albuquerque location. She added that at her own store, there’s a point person for bargaining who does the same for other locations in the region too.

She said now that the collective knows about Starbucks’ representative stipulation, hopefully a bargaining process can start soon. She said Workers United will be “really pushing” for the New Mexico store to get a bargaining date after the national strike on Wednesday.

A car sits in the drive-through of Starbucks.
A single car sits in the drive-through of the Starbucks off of I-40 and Rio Grande on Wednesday, March 22, 2023. (Photo by Megan Gleason / Source NM)

“Now that we have heard this new message about getting a bargaining representative for the Albuquerque store, I’m hoping that at least we can present them with this false request that they’re wanting, so that we could get the bargaining going there,” she said.

Trull said Starbucks Workers United has also refused to confirm bargaining session dates at other stores until Starbucks agrees to hybrid bargaining.

“Their unilateral insistence on preconditions to bargaining, including hybrid bargaining, is both unlawful and has prevented bargaining from moving forward at many tables,” he said.

Naomi Martinez said the company won’t admit to its many wrongdoings. She said it’s not surprising to hear that they refute anti-union allegations against them.

“Pretty empty words from my perspective, as someone who is already experiencing that for months now,” she said. “They’re never going to admit fault.”


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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.