Starbucks workers form their 1st union in the U.S.
Starbucks employees have voted to form their first union in the United States. In a milestone event for Starbucks, which runs 8,953 outlets in the United States, workers from at least one store in Buffalo, New York, decided to unionize.
Separate union elections were held in three Buffalo-area establishments. Baristas and shift managers at one location voted 19 to 8 in favor of unionization, while employees at the other store voted 12-to-8 against it. A federal labor official is still hand-counting ballots from the third store. The election is one of the most high-profile union victories for restaurant workers in the United States, who are among the least organized in the country. Starbucks employees who choose to join a union will do so through Workers United, which is associated with the powerful Service Employees International Union.
Three more Buffalo businesses, as well as one in Arizona, are attempting to join the union.
Starbucks has marketed itself as a progressive employer with good benefits, claiming that no union is required. Starbucks has previously battled attempts to organize in New York City and Philadelphia. However, workers at a Starbucks cafe in Canada formed a union last year. Three more stores in the Buffalo region, as well as one in Arizona, are now attempting to form a union.
The referendum in Buffalo drew national attention and earned support from prominent labor activists such as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Starbucks headquarters also reacted to the attack by sending a slew of executives to Buffalo, including the company’s head of retail operations and former CEO Howard Schultz.
The pro-union Starbucks employees pushed for greater staffing, training, and pay, including consistent wage increases for long-term employees who discover their income isn’t significantly higher than that of new hires.
Starbucks announced that it would raise its starting pay to $15 an hour and increase wages for employees who have worked for the company for more than two and five years, as well as make changes to its training and scheduling, just hours before federal officials set the union vote for Buffalo stores.
Starbucks had also claimed that instead of three specific stores, all 20 stores in the Buffalo area should vote in the union election, citing the fact that employees can pick up shifts at multiple locations. Federal labor officials objected frequently, claiming that each store is sufficiently autonomous and refusing to postpone the election or the vote count over the issue.