Oak Parkers looking for an afternoon caffeine boost will have noticed the Starbucks at 711 Lake St. can no longer accommodate their desires for a cup of joe after 2:30 p.m. The shop has been operating on a stunted schedule following the April unionization of the location.

Starbucks corporate says the earlier daily closures are due to not having enough baristas, but the baristas say their shifts have gotten longer. Baristas have placed the onus for the current situation on Starbucks leadership for not keeping the store fully staffed and therefore compelling them to work extended shifts without breaks.

 “If we take breaks, we end up being 30 minutes behind on drinks and then we get screamed at by the customers,” said a supervising barista.

A Starbucks the size of the Lake Street location requires 15 or 16 workers to operate at “optimal level,” according to Starbucks corporate spokesperson Andrew Trull. Nine workers “voluntarily resigned” from the location, Trull said, following the store’s union election vote April 11. He was unable to give specifics regarding why those staff members resigned.

Starbucks corporate intends to reinstate the shop’s original hours of operation once staff is rebuilt. At the moment, Trull said there are five baristas currently on staff at the Lake Street Starbucks. Four more have been hired and are in the early stages of training.

The store’s remaining staff returned to picket lines July 1 and 2 to protest lengthy shifts and understaffing. Baristas returned to work the following day, as the barista said they could not afford to continue striking. Their labor union was only able to pay them for one day of striking.

“We would have loved to continue to be on strike just to prove our point,” said the barista.

Understaffing has affected more than hours. According to the barista, staff do not have any time to carry out such regular maintenance as cleaning. Pests, she said, have become a problem because of this, prompting a visit from Orkin Pest Control Service.

Relations between corporate and staff have soured, the barista said. She told Wednesday Journal the unionized staff are “public enemy number one” to the store and district managers since the store became unionized.

“It’s just an extremely hostile work environment between our managers and the customers who just don’t care that we’re extremely understaffed,” the barista said.

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