December 13, 2021
Baristas at a Starbucks cafe in Buffalo, New York, have voted to form the first labor union at one of the coffee giant’s own U.S. locations in its 50-year history, as workers across the country push companies for better pay and benefits in a tight labor market, reports The Wall Street Journal.
The result is a victory for cafe workers, who petitioned in August to vote on forming a union to have a direct channel of negotiation with the company—and a blow to Starbucks, which spent months appealing to Buffalo-area baristas to vote down a labor body.
“We’ve done it, despite everything the company has thrown at us,” said Michelle Eisen, a Buffalo Starbucks barista who works at the store that voted to unionize and who helped organize the campaign, called Starbucks Workers United.
In the three separate store elections overseen by the National Labor Relations Board on Thursday, December 9, the federal body said that one store voted for unionizing, one voted against it, and results in the third weren’t conclusive. The labor board said it will review challenges from both sides in that store election.
Pro-union workers said they would immediately push the company to bargain with them over the issue of pay and other matters. Union leaders said they intended to challenge the results of the second store’s vote against unionizing, citing ballot irregularities.
Starbucks spokesperson Reggie Borges pointed to the election’s split results and said the company values all of its workers. “We will continue to focus on the best Starbucks experience we can deliver for every partner and our customers,” he said.
Some other unions Thursday pointed to the victory as a sign of the growing power of labor advocacy in the U.S. In September, popular support for unions hit a high last documented in 1965, according to Gallup.
Research contact: @WSJ