RICHMOND, Va. — Starbucks workers are celebrating after five Metro Richmond locations became the first in the Commonwealth to unionize.
Katheryn Wiggers said she and her coworkers at the Forest Hill location started talking about unionizing in January following the successful vote at a Buffalo, New York Starbucks.
Four other store locations, including Forest Hill, chose to unionize on Tuesday. Wiggers called the vote a “hard-earned victory.”
“The whole country is realizing that only a couple of people are getting ahead in this world right now,” she explained. “A lot of people are struggling a lot, and that the jobs that we're working are real jobs that deserve to be treated fairly.”
Employees said the pandemic showed them that their work is worthy of higher wages and better benefits.
They plan to begin bargaining for a new contract for better wages, seniority pay, improved health benefits and more protections from possible changes within the company.
First, the employees plan to celebrate the vote during the Richmond Unity Fest on Sunday between 12 p.m. and 8 p.m. at The National on East Broad Street.
Multiple bands will perform, and several high-profile guests are scheduled to attend including U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. Wiggers said Sanders’ office reached out to them.
“It's just a big morale boost for us who've been in the fight, but also for others to join in the movement. We have support. We have political support. We have community support,” she stated.
Former Democratic presidential candidate and political activist Marianne Williamson is also scheduled to attend the Sunday festival.
Starbucks sent CBS 6 the following statement in response to the local union vote:
“We will become the best version of Starbucks by co-creating our future directly as partners. And we will strengthen the Starbucks community by upholding each other’s dreams; upholding the standards and rituals of the company; celebrating partner individuality and voice; and upholding behaviors of mutual respect and dignity.'"
Wiggers believed workers in other industries have taken notice of their efforts and may begin their own unionizing plans.
Organizers require vaccination cards or a negative test within 72 hours of event to attend. Masks are optional, but recommended.