Starbucks workers have voted to form a union in three more stores in the Buffalo region, marking a major triumph for the union, which is facing fierce pushback from the company.
Workers at the Sheridan & Bailey, French & Transit and Walden & Anderson stores are now unionized, voting 15 to 12, 15 to 12 and 8 to 7 in favor of the union, respectively. Six stores have now voted to unionize, with five stores total in Buffalo and one in Mesa, Arizona. Only one location that has had a union election so far has voted against unionization.
“Our mission is to aid in making Starbucks the company that we all want it to be,” Rachel Cohen, a shift supervisor at Sheridan & Bailey, said. “We are ready to bring partners to the table, fill the empty set, and help one another. We cannot do what we strive for without each other. Moving forward together is our best chance at success.”
The vote count was conducted on Wednesday, after the workers’ votes were impounded by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in late February due to a legal challenge from Starbucks. The challenge – alleging that union elections should be held region-wide, rather than store-by-store — was ultimately rejected by the NLRB, but still succeeded in delaying the vote count.
“Starbucks will imply they had nothing to do with this further delay in the voting process by vaguely gesturing towards the legal process. That is a farce,” Workers United attorney Ian Hayes said at the time. “This would not have happened without their strategic decision. This is exactly the result the Starbucks wanted, and the NLRB handed it to them today.”
Starbucks Workers United said that the workers won their union despite “unfair elections.” The three stores had filed their current petitions to unionize over four months ago, and Walden & Anderson had originally filed its petition in September of last year, but withdrew to prevent legal delays for the now-unionized Elmwood location.
The vote for Walden & Anderson was close, partially because Starbucks had closed the store and other Buffalo-area stores that workers were organizing at the time, workers say. The store was turned into a training location, and the workers were sent to separate locations.
“Starbucks closed our store for two months in the middle of our organizing campaign. They added 20 new partners to our store, so that more than half our staff wasn’t there to experience what conditions were like before we unionized,” said Walden & Anderson barista Colin Cochran.
Workers said that the company only added the workers in order to dilute support for the union at the store. That union-busting tactic backfired on the company, however, as pro-union workers convinced new workers to support the union.
“They upended our store in every way, scared and divided partners, and demonized those of us who believe we deserve better,” Cochran continued. “And we still won.”
As the union drive has escalated, so has the company’s anti-union campaign. Workers have filed for union elections in 130 stores in just the past few months, and there are 21 more elections scheduled for the coming weeks. With such a huge number of unionizing stores, the company is likely no longer able to send its executives to every organizing store to intimidate workers as it did when only a handful of stores were unionizing.
Instead, the company is taking bold moves like firing union organizers and coercing workers into anti-union meetings — moves that the union has alleged are illegal. Last week, the union filed 20 complaints with the NLRB saying that the company has violated labor laws in its union-busting campaign.
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