The Starbucks on Central Avenue and Second Street in Little Tokyo. (CBS LA)

RAFU STAFF REPORT.

When Starbucks opened in Little Tokyo in 2002, it quickly became one of the busiest coffee shops in the country. On Monday, the employees at 138 S. Central Ave. made history by becoming the first Starbucks in Southern California to unionize and the fifth in the state.

“We are not anti-Starbucks. We are Starbucks!” said a spokesperson for Starbucks Workers United.

“We are organizing because we know that Starbucks partners have the ability to improve this company, transform this industry, and form a collaborative, creative, forward-thinking, justice-seeking, independent organization that will allow us to advocate for ourselves.”

The Central Avenue store is one of three in Little Tokyo.

The call to unionize is part of a nationwide effort that began at five locations in Buffalo, N.Y. A total of 64 locations have taken the first steps toward unionization. There are 13,000 Starbucks stores across the U.S.

“The company recently has started to improve our benefits package and hourly rates, possibly to eliminate the need for a union,” stated a longtime Starbucks employee, who preferred to remain anonymous.

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