Starbucks union vote results: workers vote to unionize in Buffalo, New York
The National Labor Relations Council said Thursday workers voted 19-8 in favor of a union at one of the three sites. The board of directors is still counting the 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 for any Starbucks-owned store in the United States to unionize. Starbucks has been actively fighting unionization in its stores for decades, saying its stores perform best when working directly with employees.
Workers watching the Zoom vote count on a big screen in a union office in Buffalo erupted into cheers and chants of “Elmwood, Elmwood, Elmwood!” when the results for that location were announced. They jumped up and down and kissed.
Workers at the three stores began voting by mail last month to see if they wanted to be represented by Workers United, a branch of the Service Employees International Union.
The National Labor Relations Council on Thursday began counting ballots for union elections held in stores. About 111 Starbucks employees from the three stores were eligible to vote by mail as of last month.
âYesâ votes could also speed up organizing efforts at other Starbucks stores in the United States. Already, three other stores in Buffalo and one store in Mesa, Arizona, have filed petitions with the labor council for their own union elections. These cases are pending.
Union supporters at the top three Buffalo stores filed petitions with the labor council in August asking for representation by Workers United, a branch of the Service Employees International Union. These workers say Starbucks stores had chronic issues like understaffing and faulty equipment even before the pandemic. They want more information on payment and store operations.
“We have no responsibility at this time. We have nothing to say,” said Casey Moore, a union organizer who has worked at a Buffalo-area Starbucks for about six months. âWith a union, we can actually sit down at the table and say, This is what we want. “
Starbucks insists that its 8,000 US company-owned stores perform best when it works directly with its employees, whom it calls “partners.” Many Buffalo-area employees work in more than one store based on demand, Starbucks says, and he wants the flexibility to move them between stores.
Starbucks asked the labor board to hold a vote with all of its 20 Buffalo-area stores, but the board denied the request, saying store-by-store votes were appropriate under labor law.
In a letter to Starbucks U.S. employees this week, Starbucks President and CEO Kevin Johnson reiterated the company’s desire to include all Buffalo-area stores in the union vote.
âWhile we recognize that this creates a certain level of uncertainty, we respect the ongoing process and regardless of the outcome of these elections, we will continue to stay true to our mission and values,â Johnson wrote.
Johnson also reminded employees of the company’s generous benefits, including paid parental and sick leave and free tuition through Arizona State University. At the end of last month, the company also announced salary increases, saying all its U.S. employees would be earning at least $ 15 – and up to $ 23 – an hour by next summer.
But union supporters say Starbucks can do more.
âIf Starbucks can find the money to pay its CEO nearly $ 15 million in compensation, I think they may be able to afford to pay their employees a living wage with decent benefits,â said US Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, in a recent Twitter post. Sanders held a virtual town hall with Buffalo Starbucks workers earlier this week.
Johnson earned $ 14.7 million in salaries and shares in the company’s 2020 fiscal year.
Starbucks or the union can challenge individual votes in the election, which could delay the labor board certification process. But if the votes are certified, Starbucks is legally obligated to begin the process of collective bargaining with Workers United and one of the three stores that vote to unionize, said Cathy Creighton, Buffalo Co-Lab director of industrial relations and from Cornell University’s work. .
In some cases, companies have closed a site rather than dealing with a union. But that’s difficult for a retailer like Starbucks because it would be illegal to close one store and then open another nearby, Creighton said.
Starbucks showed willingness to bargain outside the United States In Victoria, Canada, workers at a Starbucks store voted to unionize in August 2020. It took nearly a year for Starbucks and the United Steelworkers union to reach a collective agreement, which was ratified by the workers. in July.
The union votes come at a time of heightened social unrest in the United States. Striking grain workers at Kellogg Co. rejected a new contract offer earlier this week. Thousands of workers were on strike at Deere & Co. earlier this fall. And the U.S. labor council recently approved a resumption of a union vote at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama after finding out the company pressured workers to vote against the union.
Labor shortages give workers a rare advantage in wage negotiations. And Dan Graff, director of the Higgins Work Program at the University of Notre Dame, said the pandemic has given many workers the time and space to rethink what they want from their jobs.
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