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February 3, 2022

Unionizing at Starbucks Gains Momentum as Additional Stores Nationwide Seek Elections and Two Begin Negotiations

Last August, Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), started organizing employees at three Starbucks locations in the Buffalo, NY area. On December 9, 2021, one elected union representation, becoming the first unionized corporate-owned store in the U.S. The second was certified on January 10th.
Home » News » Unionizing at Starbucks Gains Momentum as Additional Stores Nationwide Seek Elections and Two Begin Negotiations

Sophia Serrao
Thu, 02/03/2022

Last August, Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), started organizing employees at three Starbucks locations in the Buffalo, NY area. On December 9, 2021, one elected union representation, becoming the first unionized corporate-owned store in the U.S. The second was certified on January 10th.

These victories in New York have galvanized employees nationwide, and today nearly 60 stores in 19 states are seeking union elections of their own. Although this represents a tiny fraction of the roughly 9,000 locations owned by the company, the campaign appears to be having a snowball effect: 22 stores have filed petitions with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) since Monday alone.

This is significant because restaurant and food service workers are the least unionized sector in the country. However, for Starbucks employees, who are facing serious understaffing and supply shortages, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how hard service industry jobs are and the importance of improving the quality of life at work.

According to a U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics report released in January 2021, union workers earn about 19% more in fixed wages, earn more secured benefits—like health insurance, retirement, and paid leave—and have more protections from discipline and termination than nonunion workers. In addition, industries with high rates of union workers report smaller gender and race disparities in pay.

While Starbucks has a reputation for being progressive and providing greater benefits than other quick service restaurants, “partners” (what Starbucks calls its employees) say it could be better. Workers seeking to unionize want to hold Starbucks accountable to its reputation and be treated like true partners, with a seat at the table and equal say in company policies around things like seniority pay, shift scheduling, safety protocols, and credit card tips.

Negotiations at the two unionized Buffalo locations began on Monday, January 31, 2022, just as elections kicked off at three other area stores. Voting has ended in Mesa, AZ, but tallying is delayed due to the company’s appeal of the single-location election. The company maintains that all fourteen “district” stores should have been included—a tactic which tends to dilute the pro-union vote—but has lost similar appeals in Buffalo.

For more information on workers’ rights to form and join unions, visit our website at https://www.mselaborlaw.com/practice-areas/labor-unions.

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