BUTTE — With the ever-increasing high cost of living, retail and service workers like those working at the Starbucks on Harrison Avenue in Butte feel their work is undervalued by the corporation.
"If a company truly cares about their workers, the best and first thing they can do to take care of them is pay them a living wage," said Cody Reichard, a supervisor at Starbucks.
Reichard says retail and service workers like them are treated like they don’t matter in big business.
"At some point, we decided as a society that they don’t and that they don’t deserve a living wage. I think that’s the biggest point that we would like to change and address with this campaign," said Reichard.
The four young adults leading this movement witnessed other Starbucks locations in different states begin to unionize and began planning to create better conditions for themselves and co-workers.
"If you are a working contributing member of society, the company you work for should care enough about you to make sure that you’re not drowning," said Shayna Baker, a barista at Starbucks.
Reichard says it has been months in the making, inspired by Butte’s union history to take action.
Known as the “Gibraltar of Unionism,” Butte’s first organized union was formed in 1878 as the Butte Workingman’s Union, later renamed the Butte Miner’s Union. Smaller labor unions followed in its footsteps to protest wage cuts and demand better wages.
"We felt like we had such an obligation to get it started and be, perhaps, one of the first stores in Montana to unionize," said Miranda Fahnestock, a barista at Starbucks.
The team began organizing in October 2021 and have reached a majority vote among workers in the store. They say it’s great to see community members support their cause.
"It’s super encouraging when people come in and they say their name is union yes or workers right," said Reichard.
MTN News reached out to Starbucks corporate headquarters for comment and received the following reply from Customer Care:
Throughout our 50-year history, our success has been built on the belief that by working directly together as partners, we can build a different kind of company...right now, our focus is on listening to our partners, addressing their needs, and ensuring we are delivering the very best Starbucks Experience we can offer.
We support our partners’ right to have their voices heard and we are committed to listening.