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Starbucks workers in Buffalo to decide whether to form a union


A crowd walks past a Starbucks on Buffalo Street, New York. December 7, 2021.

Lindsay DeDario | Reuters

StarbucksThree cafe workers in Buffalo, New York voted to form unions this week. The decision could have significant implications for New York’s coffee giant, as well as the wider restaurant industry.

The Wednesday closing date for mail-in votes is Wednesday. On Thursday, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will start counting votes. According to the Starbucks voting system, around 100 workers who work in company-owned places are eligible for the election.

In the restaurant business, unions are very rare. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that only 1.2% of restaurant workers joined unions in 2020. That is below the 6.3% rate for private-sector unionization. However, if Starbucks employees in Buffalo decide to join a union next week, it could have a significant impact on the entire coffee industry.

“I believe that once people realize they can make some changes in their workplace for their employees, it will be easier,” stated Cathy Creighton (union attorney and director, Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations Branch in Buffalo).  

Drives for the Union starting in AmazonStrikes and workers John DeereIt’s called and Kellogg’sEmployees have been the focus of media attention this year. This has brought more attention to organized labor. The tight labor market gives workers confidence in their ability to demand better wages and more benefits from employers.

Buffalo’s organizing workers share a few problems they think can be addressed by a union.

Starbucks management has been a strong opponent to the union initiative. Starbucks Workers United described the move as “union busting,” and said that Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks, was among those sent by the company. Starbucks applied to the NLRB Washington for a broadening of the union vote in the whole Buffalo market. However, the request was rejected Tuesday.

A federal labor case was filed by workers against Starbucks for illegal activities, including threats, intimidation, surveillance and harassment in response to the union push. They have denied all allegations.

Starbucks Workers United claims, in addition to being ineligible workers who are employed at Buffalo’s other locations, that Starbucks has created a balloting list. However they were only briefly given access to the voting cafés. During the count, the group is likely to voice its objections at the NLRB.

Starbucks was successful in putting an end to union drives in New York City, Philadelphia and elsewhere. If the organizers succeed in Buffalo, this union would become the first to represent baristas working at American company-owned stores. A contract was ratified by the Canadian company’s single unionized location.

CNBC’s CEO Kevin Johnson stated that “We respect this process and we’re going through it by keeping true to our mission values, and only operating as one Starbucks.” “Mad Money with Jim Cramer”Tuesday night. “This are three of the 9,000 stores. We will figure it out.

Jaz Brisack is a Starbucks barista in Buffalo’s Elmwood Avenue café. She also belongs to the Starbucks Workers United organizing group. Every morning, she receives messages from other Starbucks workers asking for help in starting a union drive. Recently, two baristas from Mesa in Arizona filed for an election.

An old Starbucks employee, who is based at a Buffalo Starbucks location that was not part of the ballot said that although she doesn’t support unionization, she believes Starbucks Workers United will succeed. Because she was afraid of being retaliated against by her colleagues, she requested anonymity.

Others in Buffalo have shown more support for the union effort. Brisack explained that some customers placed mobile orders with “union solidarité” instead of their names to support the union.

Outside Buffalo, high-profile support for the union drive came from people like Sen. Bernie SandersRep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez

Brisack explained that having all this support would allow us to hopefully get Starbucks to the bargaining tables and convince them not to delay because they know that the world is watching.

Workers who vote for a union are eligible to negotiate a contract from Starbucks. Labor law doesn’t require unions and employers to agree on a collective bargaining deal. A worker who has lost faith can petition for decertification after one year. Negotiations are halted at that point.

Edward Lewis, Atlantic Equities analyst, wrote Sunday in a note that he was closely monitoring the market to determine if it succeeds. In a note to clients Sunday, Edward Lewis said that he was concerned about the slowdown in momentum due to falling same-store sales numbers in China as well rising labor costs inflation in the U.S.

Starbucks shares have increased by 8% in the past year to $137 billion. This stock has been on track for the worst year since 2017.