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Starbucks rides Colorado wave of labor union concern

DENVER (KDVR) – Between coffee, groceries, and the new legislative session, unions are in an uncharacteristic leading position in conversation about labor in Colorado.

On Colfax Avenue and Milwaukee Street in Denver, Starbucks workers are petitioning to unite with other stores across the country. Just last month, a Starbucks in Buffalo became the first in the nation to vote to unify. Voting quickly became a trend. The Denver location is one of 54 stores in 19 different states trying to organize.

Elsewhere, union negotiations have taken center stage in Colorado public life.

Local 7 strike at King Soopers leads to a new employment contract that increases workers’ wages by as much $5 an hour for some workers. The Colorado General Assembly is considering a bill that would change the law and allow local government employees to join unions without the express permission of local law.

The push to organize labor comes at a time when union membership is low across the state.

The percentage of people in Colorado’s workforce who are union members has declined since hitting a 10-year high in 2018. There were 165,000 union members in Colorado at the end of 2021, down from 280,000 in 2018.

That means fewer union members than ever before. Statewide, just 7.5% of Colorado’s workers were union members in 2021, the lowest percentage on record by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and nearly half of 2018’s membership rate.

Starbucks’ petition to merge in Denver will be a hit in an underrepresented segment of the workforce – baristas.

Foodservice workers have one of the lowest union membership rates in the nation and are falling at that rate. Only 1.2% of the country’s food service workers are union members, one of the lowest rates in 20 years.

In contrast, public officials such as police, firefighters and teachers are the most respected. More than 40% of local government employees are union members. Colorado’s rate for local government employees is lower than this national figure, because state law prohibits it Colorado local government employee to organize unless city law explicitly permits them. A bill expected to be introduced in this legislative session will change that.

https://kdvr.com/news/data/starbucks-riding-colorado-wave-of-labor-union-interest/ Starbucks rides Colorado wave of labor union concern

Tom Vazquez

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