By DEE-ENN DURBINES and KEROLIN THOMPSON
BUFFALO, NY (AP) – Starbucks workers at a Buffalo (New York) store voted in a union vote on Thursday, the first for a 50-year-old coffee seller in the U.S. and a sign that the labor movement is sparking decades later. nggi sign. decline
The National Labor Relations Board said Thursday that workers voted 19-8 for the union on Elmwood Avenue, one of three stores in Buffalo where the election is taking place. The second store rejected the union by 12-8 votes, but the union said it could appeal the result because it was not sure all the relevant votes had been counted. The results of the third store could not be determined as both sides voted in seven separate votes.
The Workers ‘Council said Starbucks and the Workers’ Union, which is vying to represent workers, have five working days to appeal the election results. If objections are filed, there may be a series of hearings and appeals that delay the confirmation of votes. If no objection is made, the results can be confirmed as early as December 16th.
If the Labor Board approves the results and one or more stores join the union, they will be the first Starbucks stores to be offered by a union in the United States. The company has been actively fighting trade unions in its stores for decades, and said its stores work best when they work directly with employees.
The election comes at a time of heightened labor unrest in the United States. Thousands of workers joined Deere & Co. in early fall. And recently, the U.S. Labor Council approved a re-run of the union vote after the company discovered in the Amazon warehouse in Alabama that the company was pressuring workers to vote against the union.
Labor shortages rarely give workers an advantage in wage negotiations. 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 reconsider what they want out of their jobs.
On Thursday, Starbucks workers watched the counting process via Zoom on a big screen at a union office in Buffalo, shouting and shouting “Elmwood, Elmwood, Elmwood!” They shouted. when the results of that place were announced, they jumped up and down and hugged each other.
“It was an incredibly long way to get to that point,” said Michelle Eisen, an 11-year-old employee of the Elmwood store. “To this day, despite everything the company has thrown at us, we have done it. ”
Starbucks spokeswoman Reggie Borges said the company has not yet determined its next steps, but said there are close votes at two stores in Buffalo.
“Every partner is important. How we set up the company and how we continue to run the company, ”Borges said. “We will continue to focus on the best Starbucks experience we can offer to every partner and customer.”
All three store workers began voting last month by mail to decide whether or not to be represented by Workers International, a branch of the International Union of Service Workers.
The NLRB began counting ballots from the union election in stores on Thursday. Approximately 111 Starbucks employees were eligible to vote; 78 ballots, including those protested by the union and Starbucks, were also counted on Thursday.
Sounds like “yes” could accelerate union mergers at other Starbucks stores in the U.S. Already, three more stores in Buffalo and a store in Mesa, Arizona, have petitioned the Labor Board for their union election. This work is expected.
Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Labor Center, said voting for the union for a single seat at Starbucks is a big deal and calls it a “symbolic victory for the workers’ movement.”
Wong noted that it can galvanize workers not only in other parts of Starbucks, but also in fast food chains.
“People look at what’s going on in Buffalo,” Wong said.
But Matthew Dimick, an associate professor of law at the University of Buffalo, says Buffalo has a long tradition of organizing labor from its industrial past.
“Most Buffalonians can see trade unions as positive and therefore more willing to join and form unions than in other parts of the country,” Dimik said.
Rossann Williams, executive vice president of Starbucks and president of North America, told the Associated Press that the Buffalo area also has serious problems caused by the pandemic, including staff shortages and equipment problems.
“We didn’t have the right help here,” Williams said. The company has hired more than 200 people in Buffalo in the past few months and has turned one store into a training center to make workers work faster, he added.
Supporters of the three Buffalo stores that held the election said Starbucks had experienced chronic problems such as staff shortages and faulty equipment even before the pandemic. They want more access to payroll and store operations.
Starbucks notes that U.S. stores owned by more than 8,000 companies work best when they work directly with their employees and refer to them as “partners”. Starbucks notes that many employees in the Buffalo area work in multiple stores on demand and want to have the flexibility to move them between stores.
Starbucks asked the Labor Board to have one vote in all of its 20 stores in the Buffalo area, but the board rejected the request, saying in-store voting was in line with labor law.
In a letter to U.S. employees this week, Starbucks President and CEO Kevin Johnson reminded them of the company’s generous benefits, including paid parental and sick leave, and free college tuition through Arizona State University. At the end of last month, the company announced a pay rise and said all its American workers would be paid at least $ 15 and $ 23 an hour by next summer.
But allies say Starbucks can do more.
“If Starbucks finds the money to pay its CEO about $ 15 million in compensation, I think they will be able to pay their employees with decent wages and decent benefits,” Vermont-independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders said recently on Twitter. on the page. post. Sanders held a virtual city hall with Buffalo Starbucks workers earlier this week.
Johnson received a $ 14.7 million salary and stock award from the company in fiscal 2020.
If the votes are confirmed and the store joins the union, Starbucks will legally have to begin the process of collective bargaining with Workers United, said Kathy Crayton, director of Cornell University’s Buffalo Co-Laboratory for Industrial and Labor Relations.
In some cases, companies have closed the venue rather than with the union. But for a retailer like Starbucks, it’s hard because it’s illegal to close one store and open another nearby, Crayton said.
Creighton called the union’s victory at the Elmwood store “a very important event for workers in America.” He noted that the establishment of the food and beverage industry is almost impossible because employers depend on a low-wage workforce that fluctuates frequently.
“It’s weird to force a group of people to stay together and put up with the campaign that Starbucks is waging against them,” he added.
Starbucks shows willingness to bargain outside the U.S. In August 2020, workers at a Starbucks store in Victoria, Canada, voted for a union. It took Starbucks and the United Steel Workers Union about a year to reach a collective agreement, and it was ratified by the workers. in July.
There are about 4,000 Starbucks outlets in the U.S. with grocery stores, airports, casinos and other unorganized locations. But they are licensed by Starbucks and owned and operated by individual companies.
Thompson reported from Buffalo, New York, and Durbin from Detroit, Michigan. AP business writer Anne D’Innocenzio contributed from New York.