Minneapolis, St. Paul Starbucks locations vote to unionize

Minnesota now has two Starbucks locations that have chosen to unionize, and more could be on the way.

The Starbucks location at 47th St and Cedar Ave in Minneapolis voted 11-3 to unionize Monday, making it the first in the city. It followed the decision from the St. Paul location at Snelling Ave and Marshall Ave last week.

"More than anything, I want to improve the lives that we're living. I want to improve the conditions that we're living," Minneapolis barista Ethan Tinklenberg told FOX 9.

Baristas like Tinklenberg believe joining forces is the way to accomplish that. They not only want better pay but also health care that's more accessible for employees who are transgender.

"We've had people go in for surgeries or go in for treatments and then their health care will bounce, and that's just not acceptable," he said.

Labor law experts say we could be on the precipice right now of a labor union rebound. More and more workers across the country take the stand and choose to band together.

"I think workers are sort of emboldened right now. They're feeling confident. They know that there are a lot of jobs available," said David Larson, professor of law at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

Larson said with a corporation of Starbucks' size, baristas may be asking themselves why they're not making more money.

"(They may be thinking) if we want to improve our conditions, I can't really negotiate very effectively one-on-one with Starbucks. The only way I'm going to get a concession is to act collectively, and I think that the union might be the answer for me," Larson said.

He said another factor is local workers could be inspired by the teachers' strikes in St. Paul and Minneapolis, where employees were able to improve their contracts.

"So somebody looking at that says, ‘Wow, this union activity stuff can work,’" Larson said.

As the labor movement builds, employees feel the power is in their hands, and they need to make the most of it.

"We want everybody to be treated not just fairly but equitably and respectfully, and we don't think that's the case right now," Tinklenberg said.

Fox 9 contacted Starbucks’ corporate office to ask for a response about the baristas’ decision to unionize and the concerns about health care for baristas who are transgender. However, Fox 9 did not get a response.