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Mililani Starbucks narrowly votes not to unionize

Me: "My name is Rigoberto." Starbucks barista: "Giorgio?"

Nearly half of the eligible staff at the Mililani Shopping Center Starbucks were looking to become the first of the franchise to unionize in Hawai’i, but that wasn’t enough Monday.

Several members filed a petition to organize back in February, but employees at the location rejected unionization efforts in an 8-7 vote.

Organizer Nate Jaramillo was working his regular shift when the votes were read live by the National Labor Relations Board.

“We all sort of looked at each other and everyone who was in the lobby watching the count on a laptop just sort of started crying," Jaramillo said Monday. "That was sort of tough to see.”

The vote came as a disappointing surprise to some, including fellow barista and co-organizer Alicia McKinley. She said she wanted to organize for the betterment of staff present and future.

“I want the people that are going to be there after me to have a livable wage, to have a reliable schedule, to have managers who will be out there working hard with them," she said.

Baristas and other staff members sought to unionize after the Shopping Center store closed for about three weeks in January. Facing cut hours and a potential loss of benefits, some employees began to discuss what it would mean to unionize — just like several stores were pushing for across the nation.

“I took a day and I just researched and I learned what I needed to learn. And I was like, you know what, this is what we need," McKinley said.

About 50 Starbucks locations nationwide have already unionized, and nearly 250 have filed petitions to organize.

McKinley said her fight isn’t over, but that it's time to regroup.

“(I) didn't get the result that I wanted, but that doesn't mean that I'll stop doing my job, it doesn't mean that I'll stop being professional," she said. "Life goes on, but we're not finished.”

Starbucks has said they respect the rights of its employees to organize, but that they believe the company is better together without a union between them.

According to NLRB case documents, no other Starbucks in the state has filed to unionize at this time.

Sabrina Bodon was Hawaiʻi Public Radio's government reporter.
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