Business & Lobbying

Starbucks in Buffalo becomes first to vote to unionize

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A Starbucks store in Buffalo, N.Y., on Thursday became the first of the company’s U.S. locations to vote to unionize, despite sentiments from the coffee chain that such a move was not necessary.

“Victory at Elmwood, the first unionized Starbucks store in the United States — history made!!!” Starbucks Workers United, the Starbucks’ workers union, tweeted on Thursday.

At one of three Buffalo stores holding a vote over whether to unionize, workers voted 19-8 in favor of the move, according to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

A second store voted against unionizing in a 12-8 vote and the results from a third store were not yet clear.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) celebrated following the vote in favor of unionization.

“Congratulations to @SBWorkersUnited on the HISTORIC achievement of organizing the first-ever union at a company-owned Starbucks in the US. The company should stop pouring money into the fight against the union and negotiate a fair contract now,” Sanders tweeted, including a video of employees cheering at the news.

An affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, the Workers United Labor Union, would represent the employees pending certification from the NLRB, according to the Associated Press

“HUGE VICTORY!!! Starbucks workers have their first #union! #UnionsForAll #1u,” SEIU tweeted.

The Starbucks president for North America, Rossann Williams, indicated in a statement following the news that no immediate changes would be enacted as the process continues. 
A spokesperson for the coffee chain said in a statement that Starbucks was “grateful for each partner who exercised their right to vote, and as we move forward, we will continue to focus on working to exceed the expectations of all our partners and our customers.”
“We want to protect partner flexibility and transferability across all stores in a market or a district because we know that’s important to partners, which is why we maintain our belief that every partner in a district or market should have the opportunity to vote on such an important decision,” the spokesperson added. 

The announcement comes as Starbucks has expressed resistance to unionization efforts at its locations, saying that its stores operate best when the company deals directly with staff members, the AP noted. The coffee chain also requested that all 20 of its Buffalo area stores hold only one union vote, but that proposal was struck down by the NLRB.

Starbucks is not the only company currently involved in labor disputes and challenges. John Deere and Kellogg, among many others, have also been engaged in contract negotiations as employees seek better wages and benefits amid a worker shortage.

Starbucks announced in late October that it would be raising its minimum wage to $15 by summer 2022 as well as giving raises to employees who had been with the coffee chain for at least two years beginning in late January.

Starbucks said at the time that it was not adopting those policies due to unionization efforts, which were already in progress. 

— Updated at 10:27 p.m.

Tags Bernie Sanders Buffalo New York Starbucks Union unionization
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