Baristas hope to improve store


Maddie Farbman

Students wait for their orders in the Starbucks on Willow Road and Pfingsten Road during a late arrival day on Feb. 9. In part due to staffing issues that make wait times longer, baristas at this location decided to unionize.

When students entered the Starbucks on a Glenbrook North late arrival morning on Sept. 1, Starbucks shift supervisor Tianna Lavalle experienced what she thought was her all-time busiest work day. Lavalle’s managers eventually began to schedule more baristas on late-arrival mornings to accommodate the rush, as the store was typically short-staffed. 

“At one point, there were probably 50 people in the cafe, or at least it felt like it,” said Lavalle. “Especially the late arrival day as a whole, it was nonstop moving.”

Short-staffing, wage controversy and training issues concerned Lavalle and her fellow baristas at the Starbucks on the corner of Willow Road and Pfingsten Road in Glenview, so they voted unanimously to beginthe process of unionizing, Lavalle said. 

A union is a community of workers at any given workplace that come together to democratically decide what conditions and terms they are willing to accept at work. In a letter to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, baristas at this Starbucks location demanded better training protocols, proper staffing and better treatment of long-term partners.The baristas who signed the letter attributed circumstances, like the location’s drive-thru being closed for almost all of last October, as reasons for why they were unable to provide proper service under these conditions. 

Meeting union demands, such as full staffing, directly improves the customer experience and decreases the amount of time customers spend waiting for their orders, said Madison Lisle, an organizer with Workers United.

“When you havehappy, fulfilled workers who are given all the tools to do their job, that just means that the business is going to run that much better,” Lisle said. 

Junior Rachel Kravtsov, who frequently visits a Starbucks location in Wilmette and the one in Glenview, noticed the Glenview location is more hectic. 

“I definitely see the differences, especially in terms of how many workers are there at one time,” Kravtsov said. 

Kravtsov looks forward to seeing the familiar faces of Willow and Pfingsten Starbucks baristas every morning because of their kindness and upbeat attitude.

“They are always genuine, and those small little acts of kindness just start your morning off right,” said Kravtsov. “It’s how I start my day most of the time, so it just keeps me in a good routine.”

Baristas at the Willow and Pfingsten location participated in an unfair labor practice strike on Dec. 17.

“We actually joined over 100 plus stores across the nation that weekend,” said Lavalle.“We were protesting unfair working conditions and unfair treatment due to [management combatting] unionization.”

District manager Joni Brasile declined a request for aninterview and Starbucks’ corporate press contact is not granting student interview requests. 

The location has a new store manager whom the baristas have made an effort to cooperate with, Lavalle said.

“I think if we are able to work together to achieve what we’d like to achieve as a union, then it will positively have a domino effect on the community,” said Lavalle. “We’ll be able to help serve customers exactly how we’re supposed to.”