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Wichita Starbucks workers become first in the city to unionize

Workers at the Starbucks at Central and Rock voted to unionize.
Daniel Caudill
Workers at the Starbucks at Central and Rock voted to unionize.

Employees at the Starbucks near Rock and Central voted in favor of unionizing their store.

WICHITA — Workers at a Starbucks store in Wichita voted to unionize on Tuesday, becoming the first in the city to do so.

Employees voted 9-6 in favor of unionizing their store, which is at Rock and Central. Their bargaining unit will include 29 baristas, shift supervisors, shift managers and assistant store managers.

They’re now the third group of Starbucks employees in Kansas to vote to unionize, alongside stores in Lawrence and Overland Park.

This is the second Starbucks union vote in Wichita. The first was held two weeks ago for the 21st and Amidon store, but workers ultimately voted not to unionize.

More than 200 stores have organized since December, when a store in Buffalo, New York, became the first unionized Starbucks in the country. Starbucks has said it does not support the union drive.

Unlike most of the stores that have unionized, workers at the Rock and Central location appear to be organizing independently, rather than through Starbucks Workers United or the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

The store at Rock and Central is currently closed for remodeling. It is scheduled to reopen Sept. 1.

The vote comes a day after Starbucks requested the National Labor Relations Board halt all union votes at its stores. The coffee chain alleges NLRB officials allowed workers at the Overland Park store to improperly cast ballots in-person when they did not receive mail-in ballots.

An NLRB spokesperson said the organization does not comment on open cases and is still considering the challenge by Starbucks.

Workers at the Overland Park store voted 6-1 to unionize, but seven additional ballots were the subject of challenges from Starbucks or the union. A hearing on those challenges was scheduled for Tuesday.

Daniel Caudill reports on Kansas state government for Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service. He was a general assignment reporter for KMUW and a reporter, photographer and digital content manager for The Derby Informer and an editor and reporter for The Sunflower. In the spring of 2020, Daniel helped cover the legislative session in Topeka as an intern for the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @CaudillKMUW.