UPDATE: Jan. 24, 2022: As of Monday, three additional Starbucks stores announced campaigns for union elections — two in Massachusetts and one in Virginia. There are now three Richmond, Virginia-area stores and six Boston-area stores filing for elections, according to National Labor Relations Board records Restaurant Dive has collected.
- As of Friday, organizers in at least 30 Starbucks stores in 14 states have filed for National Labor Relations Board elections or announced their intent to file. Starbucks didn't respond to Restaurant Dive's requests for comment before press time.
- Multiple stores in Buffalo, New York; Mesa, Arizona; Seattle, Chicago and Boston have filed for elections.
- One store in Mesa, Arizona, began voting on Jan. 19 in a mail-in election, while three more Buffalo-area stores are scheduled to begin voting on Jan. 31.
Starbucks Workers United has used its wins at two Buffalo-area Starbucks stores — one this month and one in December — as a catalyst for expanded union organizing. But at least some of the 30 stores' campaigns predate the union's first victory at the Elmwood Avenue Starbucks in Buffalo.
Long before the union campaign in Hopewell, New Jersey, went public on Jan. 11, workers discussed organizing in September, shortly after the first three Buffalo stores' campaign went public.
Russ Lingle, a shift manager and organizing committee member at the Hopewell Starbucks, said workers in New Jersey were careful to preserve an element of surprise.
"When we went public, it completely blindsided our store manager and our district manager, because they had no idea that this was happening," Lingle said.
Lingle said when employees at his cafe heard stories about Starbucks' efforts to stop the union in Buffalo, this generated a sense of solidarity among workers and increased their determination to organize.
RJ Rebmann, a worker at the Genesee Street Starbucks in Cheektowaga, New York, said the corporate presence on the shop floor has subsided since that store became the second unionized Starbucks. Corporate support managers, who local employees said were deployed to the store to surveil the union effort, and executives have left the location, Rebmann said.
This shift has given local Starbucks workers a new sense of power, one that workers lacked when using the company’s pre-existing channels of communication, Rebmann said.
"Starbucks corporate has been saying, 'We don't want the union to come in and become like a third-party that goes between us,' but Starbucks has been around for, 50 years at this point," Rebmann said. "This is the first time that we feel like we can truly be listened to."
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Starbucks' stance against unionization has not changed. Starbucks Workers United members have alleged the company is ramping up anti-union meetings between managers and employees at stores where campaigns have gone public.
Rebmann thinks the campaign may inspire more workers to organize.
"If we can do it, then you can do it," Rebmann said.
NLRB records collected by Restaurant Dive show Boston and Chicago have emerged as relative strongholds for the union, with four Boston-area and three Chicago-area stores filing for elections. Those cities, like Buffalo, have seen the emergence of union organizing at independent cafes predating the drives at Starbucks.
The next major test of Workers United's union momentum is mail-in ballot elections at the Mesa, Arizona, Starbucks location, where ballots went out on Jan. 19, according to NLRB records, and three more Buffalo-area stores due to vote starting on Jan. 31.
As of Friday, Starbucks workers at stores in New York, Arizona, Massachusetts, Washington, Tennessee, Colorado, Illinois, Oregon, Ohio, Florida, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and California have begun campaigning for a union.