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Starbucks employees push for living wage and more

Starbucks workers at a Nichols Hills store sit-in on April 23, 2022

Starbucks employees in Oklahoma City held a sit-in at a Nichols Hills café over the weekend. They say they want to raise awareness about earning better conditions for all the chain’s Oklahoma workers.

Barista Tobi Jimenez said she makes $12 an hour and can’t afford a car or medical care.

“I can barely pay rent at my parent’s house and my bills, as well as other medical bills. Even with the health care we have now, I can’t afford to go to the doctor,” said Jimenez.

According to Starbucks, its revenue grew to over $8 billion at the end of 2021. That’s a 19% increase from the previous year. Barista Alisha Humphrey said many employees are not benefitting from that money.

“Starbucks definitely has billions in profits and a lot of that money stays up top without going to the people who are making that money for Starbucks,” said Humphrey.

The Nichols Hills café recently voted on unionization and is awaiting results from the National Labor Relations Board expected early next month. If the vote is in favor of unionization, employees will negotiate conditions for that store only.

Hundreds of Starbucks stores across the country have sought unionization votes. So far no Tulsa store has taken up efforts.

Before joining Public Radio Tulsa, Elizabeth Caldwell was a freelance reporter and a teacher. She holds a master's from Hollins University. Her audio work has appeared at KCRW, CBC's The World This Weekend, and The Missouri Review. She is a south Florida native.