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First, Starbucks workers agree to form a union in Buffalo, NY

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BUFFALO, NY (AP) — Starbucks workers voted to unify at a Buffalo, New York store over objections from the company, pointing the way to a new labor model for the giant. 50 years old coffee.

The National Labor Relations Board said on Thursday that workers voted 19-8 in favor of the union at one of three locations in Buffalo. The board of directors is still counting votes for the other two stores.

If the labor board certifies the vote — a process that is expected to take about a week — it would be the first time any Starbucks-owned stores in the US have merged. Starbucks has actively resisted consolidation at its stores for decades, saying its stores work best when working directly with employees.

Workers watching the vote count via Zoom on a large screen at a union office in Buffalo erupted in cheers and chants of “Elmwood, Elmwood, Elmwood!” when the results of that place are announced, jump and cry.

Workers at all three stores began voting by mail last month on whether they want to be represented by United Workers, a branch of the Service Employees International Union.

The National Labor Relations Board begins counting votes on Thursday from union election held in stores. About 111 Starbucks workers have been eligible to vote by mail since last month.

“Yes” votes could also spur consolidation efforts at other US Starbucks stores. Now, three more stores in Buffalo and one in Mesa, Arizona, have filed their own union elections with the labor council. Those cases are pending.

Union supporters at Buffalo’s first three stores filed a petition with the labor board in August seeking representation by United Workers, a branch of the Service Employees Union International. Those workers say Starbucks stores were experiencing chronic problems like staff shortages and faulty equipment even before the pandemic hit. They want more input on checkout and store activity.

“We have no accountability right now. We have no say,” said Casey Moore, a union organizer who has worked at a Buffalo-area Starbucks for about six months. “With a union, we would actually be able to sit down at the table and say, “This is what we want. ‘”

Starbucks insists that its 8,000 company-owned stores in the US work best when working directly with employees, what it calls “partnerships”. Many employees in the Buffalo area work at multiple stores, Starbucks says, and they want the flexibility to move between stores.

Starbucks asked the labor board to hold a vote with all 20 of its Buffalo-area stores, but the board denied that request, saying individual store votes were appropriate under the labor law.

In a letter to Starbucks employees in the US this week, Starbucks President and CEO Kevin Johnson reiterated the company’s desire to put all stores in the Buffalo area on the ballot. of the union.

“While we recognize this creates some degree of uncertainty, we respect the process that is underway and regardless of the outcome of these elections, we will continue to be neutral.” true to its mission and values,” Johnson wrote.

Johnson also reminds employees of the company’s generous benefits, including paid parental and sick leave and free college tuition through Arizona State University. Late last month, the company also announced a pay increase, saying all of its American workers will make at least $15 — and up to $23 — per hour next summer.

But alliance advocates say Starbucks can do more.

“If Starbucks can find the money to pay their CEO nearly $15 million in compensation, I think maybe they can afford it,” said US Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent. ability to pay its workers a salary commensurate with meritorious benefits”. post. Sanders hosted a virtual town hall with Buffalo Starbucks workers earlier this week.

Johnson earned $14.7 million in salary and stock bonuses in the company’s 2020 fiscal year.

Starbucks or a union may contest an individual’s vote in an election, which could delay the labor board certification process. But if the votes are certified, Starbucks is legally obligated to begin the collective bargaining process with United Workers and any of the three stores voting to merge, said Cathy Creighton, Director The Buffalo Co-Lab at Cornell University said. .

In some cases, companies closed a location instead of dealing with a union. But that’s difficult for a retailer like Starbucks, because it’s illegal to close one store and then open another nearby, Creighton said.

Starbucks has shown a willingness to bargain outside of the US In Victoria, Canada, workers at a Starbucks store voted to merge in August 2020. Starbucks and the United Steelworkers union took almost a year to reach. collective bargaining agreement, ratified by workers. in July.

Union votes come at a high time Labor instability in the US Grain workers go on strike at Kellogg Co. refuse a new contract offer earlier this week. Thousands of workers went on strike at Deere & Co. early this fall. And the US labor council recently passed a redo a union vote at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama after it was discovered the company pressured workers to vote against the union.

Labor shortages are giving workers a rare advantage in wage negotiations. And Dan Graff, director of the Higgins Labor Program at the University of Notre Dame, said the pandemic has given many workers time and space to rethink what they want from their jobs.

https://wgntv.com/news/in-a-first-starbucks-workers-agree-to-union-in-buffalo-ny/ First, Starbucks workers agree to form a union in Buffalo, NY

CELINE CASTRONUOVO

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