The first for any Starbucks-owned store, the victory could inspire unionization efforts across the company’s 8,000 outlets in the US
Last modified on Thu 9 Dec 2021 15.33 EST
Starbucks workers have voted to unionize at a store in Buffalo, New York, over the company’s objections, pointing the way to a new labor model for the 50-year-old coffee giant.
The National Labor Relations Board said Thursday that workers voted 19-8 in favor of a union. The board is still counting votes for two other stores.
If the labor board certifies the vote – a process expected to take about a week – it would be the first Starbucks-owned store in the US to unionize.
Starbucks has actively fought unionization at its stores for decades, saying its stores function best when the company works directly with employees, whom it calls “partners”.
Workers at three separate Buffalo-area stores began voting by mail last month on whether they wanted to be represented by Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union.
The National Labor Relations Board counted ballots Thursday from union elections held at three separate Starbucks stores in the Buffalo area.
About 111 Starbucks workers from the three stores were eligible to vote by mail starting last month.
The “Yes” vote is likely to accelerate unionization efforts at other US Starbucks outlets.
Already, three more stores in Buffalo and a store in Mesa, Arizona, have filed petitions with the labor board for their own union elections. Those cases are pending.
Union backers at the first three Buffalo stores say Starbucks’ stores had chronic problems like understaffing and faulty equipment even before the pandemic. They want more input on pay and store operations.
“We have no accountability right now. We have no say,” said Casey Moore, a union organizer who has been working at a Buffalo-area Starbucks for about six months. “With a union we will actually be able to sit down at the table and say, ‘This is what we want.’”
Many employees in the Buffalo area work at more than one store depending on demand, Starbucks says, and it wants to have the flexibility to move them between stores.
Starbucks president and CEO Kevin Johnson earned $14.7m in salary and stock awards in the company’s 2020 fiscal year.
The union votes come at a time of heightened labor unrest in the US, with disputes at cereal maker Kellogg, equipment maker Deere and renewed unionization efforts from warehouse workers at Amazon.
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