The union organizing Starbucks opts to bail from another concept it represents

Workers United has filed for regulators' approval to part company with an Ultimo Coffee cafe. The move comes as a majority of the coffee shop's employees take steps to oust the group.
The NLRB will need to approve Workers United's withdrawal. | Photo: Shutterstock

The union that organized employees of a Philadelphia coffee-shop chain in 2022 is trying to end its representation of a store after a majority of the staff asked for a chance to vote out the labor group.

The change of heart by employees of the Ultimo Coffee unit marks a setback for Workers United, which is also the union behind the organization of 375 Starbucks units and a number of smaller coffee chains.  It comes as petitions for a re-vote on unionizing have been filed by the employees of 19 unionized Starbucks stores. All are still pending before the National Labor Relations Board, the federal monitor of union elections.

Workers United, or WU, filed the paperwork to end its involvement with one of Ultimo’s units after a majority of the café’s staff signed a petition requesting the NLRB permit a re-vote on organizing, or what’s known as a decertification vote.

The petition drive was led by barista Samuel Tarasenko, who was given free legal aid by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. The advocacy group promotes the rights of employees to opt out of union membership at will instead of being required to join if a majority of coworkers vote for representation.

“WU union officials, likely fearing a losing vote tally, disclaimed interest in the unit of Ultimo employees before a vote could occur,” the foundation said in a press release.

It noted that two units of another Philadelphia coffee chain, Good Karma, booted out the WU in August via decertification votes.  

Another local coffee purveyor, the Guava and Java unit in Philadelphia’s airport, ousted its union in May. The store was represented by Here United, the second-largest union within the hospitality industry.

WU is part of Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, the largest labor group in the trade. An affiliate of WU, Starbucks Workers United, represents Starbucks workers.

Ultimo’s three stores all operate within Philadelphia. The unit the WU is exiting is in the city’s Germantown neighborhood.

At least one unit remains unionized, according to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

Workers United had not responded by the time of this posting to a request for comment. 

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