ITHACA, N.Y.—Certain Tompkins County and City of Ithaca elected officials have lined up behind unionizing Starbucks workers in Ithaca, writing a letter voicing their support for the unionization effort going on at three local locations and stating general support for the local workers.

The letter was sent to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson in Seattle, Washington, where Starbucks is headquartered (though Howard Schultz returned from his ill-fated presidential campaign to be CEO this week). It comes as Starbucks workers around the country begin to unionize, a movement that began in western New York and quickly spread to the company’s three Ithaca locations—including one that had only been opened for a matter of days at the time.

“As of January 31, employees at all three Starbucks locations in Ithaca, New York have filed petitions for union elections,” the letter reads. “They have joined Starbucks workers throughout the country in an unprecedented movement to unionize the company. […] We, the undersigned, will protect our reputation as a union town and support our courageous workers in their efforts to unionize.”

Community members can sign on to a different version of the letter themselves here.

In total, the elected officials are as follows: New York State Assemblymember Anna Kelles, Tompkins County Legislators Shawna Black, Deborah Dawson, Amanda Champion, Gregory Mezey, Anne Koreman and Veronica Pillar; Common Council members Jorge DeFendini, Phoebe Brown, George McGonigal, Patrick Mehler, Robert Cantelmo and Ducson Nguyen.

The letter goes on to explicitly state support for Starbucks workers in Memphis, Tennessee, who were allegedly fired because of their involvement with the unionizing committee there. It also lays out a list of eight requests of the company, which include reinstating the Memphis workers and signing on to a document that would codify fair union election principles.

Those protect from corporate retaliation against unionizing workers, would prevent Starbucks management from bribing or threatening workers with wage changes based on union support, would install arbitration measures for any worker who feels they’ve been terminated or punished because of their union involvement, and more.

“For the past two years, service workers, including Starbucks employees, have been on the front line of the pandemic,” the letter states. “They have been deemed essential and have risked infection on the job every day. COVID notwithstanding, the service industry is demanding, and the workers who serve the public deserve a safe workplace, fair wages, secure employment, and a voice on the job.”

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Managing Editor at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com