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9 Dec, 2021 23:33

Starbucks employees form first US union in company’s 50-year history

Starbucks employees form first US union in company’s 50-year history

Starbucks workers in Buffalo have banded together to form the first US union in the ubiquitous coffee chain’s history, a move likely to spread further in the area and in Mesa, Arizona, where workers filed for their own elections.

The new union had hoped to start by representing some 111 Starbucks workers across three locations in Buffalo, though as of Thursday only one location had won a certified union victory, according to the National Labor Relations Board. 

That shop won by a hefty margin of 19 for, 8 against. A vote at the second store saw 12 opposed to unionization and 8 in favor, but that vote has no bearing on the other result. The outcome of the vote in the third Buffalo shop has not been reported.

The unionized Buffalo workers will be represented by Workers United, affiliated with the massive Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Workers at a Starbucks store in Canada unionized last year, but the Buffalo workers are the first to form a US union. The company previously fought off attempts to unionize in New York and Philadelphia.

Starbucks argued that it offers workers paid parental and sick leave and has boosted its hourly pay rate to a minimum of $15 — and as high as $23 —  in a bid to mollify employees who might be quitting their jobs en masse across the country in what has been dubbed the ‘great resignation’. 

Workers at the Mesa, Arizona location, which has filed for union elections, are offered free college tuition through Arizona State University. However, such perks appear to be too little, too late for organizers. A Buffalo organizer, Casey Moore, told ABC that employees want to be able to “sit down at the table and say ‘this is what we want.

Buffalo workers said they had issues with chronic understaffing, faulty equipment, insufficient employee input on store operations and pay and that those problems predate Covid-19 and cannot be fixed with mere surface tinkering.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) held a virtual town hall with employees earlier this week, urging them to keep fighting for bigger benefits and better working conditions, noting that CEO Kevin Johnson took home $14.7 million in 2020.