UPDATE: Jan. 11: This article has been updated with comments from a Starbucks spokesperson regarding stores in the Buffalo market shifting to takeout-only service.
- After the National Labor Relations Board Region 3 sustained challenges from Starbucks Workers United to seven ballots, the union on Monday secured a majority of votes at the Starbucks on Genesee Street in Cheektowaga, New York, NLRB Press Secretary Kayla Blado confirmed to Restaurant Dive. This is the second Starbucks store to win union representation.
- Starbucks confirmed to Restaurant Dive that it was exploring the possibility of an appeal to overturn the NLRB's decision.
- Starbucks Workers United's campaign has heated up in recent days, with filings for elections in Chicago; Cleveland; and Eugene, Oregon. Workers at a Starbucks in Hopewell, New Jersey, announced their intent to unionize on Jan. 11.
The Genesee Street store's union win adds momentum to a campaign that has spread to 17 stores in 10 states. The Starbucks Workers United organizing committee said in a statement emailed to Restaurant Dive that the workers at the location would join employees at the Elmwood Avenue store in Buffalo, New York — the first store to unionize — in collective bargaining with the company.
"We want a fair contract and most importantly we demand that Starbucks stop their union busting in Buffalo and across the nation immediately," Lexi Rizzo, a shift supervisor and organizing committee member at Genesee Street said in a statement. "No other partners should have to endure what we went through to have a voice on the job."
Buffalo Starbucks workers spent years laying the groundwork for a union drive, but once these employees went public they faced anti-union meetings and alleged surveillance from Starbucks support managers.
At the Genesee Street location, workers from a different store were called in to work shifts throughout the fall, and given ballots. Six of those workers cast votes, which were challenged by the union during the initial vote count on Dec. 9. A seventh vote was challenged by Starbucks. The NLRB decided Monday that it would not count those votes, granting the union a 15-9 win.
Reggie Borges, a spokesperson for Starbucks, said the results in Buffalo did not change the company's belief that a union was unnecessary.
A Starbucks spokesperson also told Restaurant Dive the company was exploring avenues to overturn the election result in Cheektowaga.
The pace and geographical spread of new union filings at Starbucks stores have ramped up since Starbucks Workers United's Dec. 9 victory at the Elmwood Avenue store. The first store to file outside the Buffalo area, a Starbucks in Mesa, Arizona, is scheduled to begin voting by mail on Jan. 14, with ballots due back by Jan. 28 according to NLRB documents.
Workers in the Buffalo area have put pressure on Starbucks. Unionized employees at the Elmwood Avenue Starbucks on Jan. 5 staged a strike over COVID-19 safety, which ended Monday. The workers demanded the company remove lobby furniture, reintroduce hazard pay, give workers N95 and KN95 respirators and allow them to refuse service to unmasked customers.
Vice News reported Starbucks switched Buffalo area stores to offering takeout only, but Borges said that decision predated the Elmwood strike. Starbuck employees confirmed this timeline. According to Borges, the company maintains a dashboard including information on local COVID-19 case rates, staffing levels and employees who need to self-isolate. District managers use this dashboard to determine responses to COVID-19, including shifting stores or whole markets to takeout-only service, Borges said.
According to Borges, the strike changed nothing, and Starbucks has "gone above and beyond with COVID health and safety protocols."