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Maine joins a growing number of states with Starbucks stores pushing to unionize

Starbucks workers and organizers in Buffalo, N.Y., discuss efforts to unionize three local stores on Oct. 28.
Carolyn Thompson
Starbucks workers and organizers in Buffalo, N.Y., discuss efforts to unionize three local stores on Oct. 28.

Starbucks employees in Biddeford have filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to unionize with Workers United, a member of the Service Employees International Union.

With Biddeford's launch, Maine is now the 35th state in the country with Starbucks stores that have filed unionization petitions.

In a letter to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, Biddeford employees say they're overworked, underpaid and burnt out. Six Biddeford Starbucks employees publicly signed the letter, with others indicating they wished to remain anonymous. They said Starbucks has drastically cut their hours and decreased their training hours.

"We've had to pick up second jobs to provide for ourselves and our families," the letter reads. "Our pay rates fail to compete with the rising costs of living.

Workers United said the Biddeford employees were unavailable for interviews on Friday.

Will Westlake, a Starbucks barista in Buffalo, New York, who sits on the national organizing committee for Workers United, said the movement has grown quickly over the last six months. More than 270 Starbucks stores have filed for unionization across the country.

"When we see a store become the first in the state, we see many more follow it," Westlake said.

Mainers have expressed their support to Biddeford employees.

"People have already been talking about customers coming into the store to say congratulations, to say, 'Stay strong, solidarity,'" Westlake said. "People [are] mobile-ordering at that store with Maine's 'union-yes' and 'union strong.'"

In a statement, a Starbucks spokesperson says the company is "listening" and "learning" from its partner stores.

“From the beginning, we’ve been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us, and that conviction has not changed," the spokesperson said. "We respect our partner’s right to organize and are committed to following the NLRB process."

More than half of employees must vote in favor of the union in an election. Westlake said the Biddeford store has more than enough workers who say they support unionization.