Michelle Eisen, a barista at the Buffalo, N.Y., Elmwood Starbucks location, helps out the local Starbucks Workers United, employees of a local Starbucks, as they gather at a local union hall to cast votes to unionize or not, on Feb. 16, 2022, in Mesa, Ariz. Credit: Ross D. Franklin / AP

Workers at a Starbucks store in Biddeford announced their intent to unionize on Friday, becoming the first Maine store to do so as employees at dozens of Starbucks stores across the country have sought to unionize.

Six Biddeford employees publicly signed a letter to Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz and filed an election petition with the National Labor Relations Board on Friday announcing their intent to unionize with Workers United, an affiliate of Service Employees International Union.

Workers United has swiftly moved to organize dozens of Starbucks stores across the U.S. since last fall, when a Buffalo, New York, coffee shop became the first to successfully unionize.

The Biddeford employees listed the pandemic, insufficient staffing, overwork, low wages and “unrealistic expectations” as their impetus to unionize. 

“Through unionizing, we hope to rebuild the company that once valued us as partners,” the letter to Schultz read. “We are the face of Starbucks. We deserve a seat at the table, and to have our voices heard and dignified.” 

Starbucks, the coffee conglomerate that began in Seattle, has criticized efforts to unionize its stores. The National Labor Relations Board has accused the company of retaliation and illegally firing union organizers. 

A Starbucks spokesperson said the company was “listening and learning” from its Biddeford employees, and that it would respect labor law but was opposed to unionization.

“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.

A spokesperson for the Maine AFL-CIO, which isn’t directly involved with the Starbucks unionization effort, said it was an exciting development for not just Starbucks workers, but all workers in Maine. 

“Hard working Starbucks employees deserve the right to bargain to improve their wages and benefits and have a seat at the table in management decisions,” said communications director Andy O’Brien.

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Lia Russell

Lia Russell is a reporter on the city desk for the Bangor Daily News. Send tips to LRussell@bangordailynews.com.