By Michael Abeyta

(CBS4) – When Colorado King Soopers workers went on strike in early January, Professor of Economics at Metropolitan State University of Denver Kishore Kulkarni made somewhat of a prediction

“King Soopers is just an example of what will happen with some other companies,” he told CBS4’s Michael Abeyta on Jan. 13.

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He said that is because there is a labor shortage and the cost of living is rising, workers are demanding more from their employers. At the time he said $18-$22 per hour would be the living wage in Denver.

“Labor has a point in asking form higher wages,” he said.

That prediction may be coming true. Starbucks baristas at a store in Superior want to unionize. In Denver baristas at the 2975 East Colfax Avenue store have also begun the process to unionize. Barista Trey Slopsena says there’s one major issue; not feeling safe during the pandemic at work.

“We’ve had a lot of safety issues regarding COVID and not getting the supplies necessary to keep our partners safe,” he said.

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He also said they want to make a living wage so he and his fellow baristas can have a life and not continue working two or three jobs just to put food on the table.

“It’s just a huge problem and I see a lot of people struggling,” he said.

Kulkarni says this is a sentiment many workers have right now and, thanks to the labor shortage, they feel comfortable speaking up. He thinks companies should listen.

“Employers should get ready to either give it to them or have some friction with them,” he said.

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Trey says that’s why he and his fellow baristas on Colfax decided to try to unionize.

“People have just woken up to the fact that we don’t have to take this you know?” he said.

CBS4 has reached out to Starbucks to address some of the allegations. They say they have taken measures to keep employees safe during the pandemic like offering pay to get vaccinated, isolation pay if an employee has to quarantine, and strongly encouraging vaccination for employees, even though they won’t require vaccination because of a recent Supreme Court ruling.

They also said they are raising their minimum wage to $15 per hour most places and more where cost of living is higher. They say those raises have already happened at some stores, and are set to take effect this summer nationwide.

In a statement to CBS News last fall when three coffee shops field petitions to unionize in New York Starbucks said, “We respect our partners’ right to organize but believe that they would not find it necessary given our pro-partner environment.” The company is known for paid time off, parental leave, 401k and health coverage.

Michael Abeyta