Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A Starbucks employee

A cashier wears a face mask at a Starbucks coffee shop location. Starbucks employees in the Buffalo, New York area began voting on November 10, 2021 regarding forming a union. (Photo: Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Starbucks Anti-Union Blitz in High Gear as Buffalo Employees Begin Historic Vote

"We are well on our way to winning the first unionized Starbucks store in the U.S.," said Workers United, an affiliate of the SEIU.

Julia Conley

Starbucks employees in the Buffalo, New York area are casting ballots in a union election which, if successful, would result in the first U.S. bargaining unit at the international coffee chain.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Wednesday began sending out ballots to workers at three store locations which filed for an election in August, setting off an effort by the Seattle-based corporation to "intimidate" the employees out of organizing, according to critics.

"Starbucks will do everything it can to stop Workers United's organizing drive in Buffalo."

The company has attempted to delay the election and has sent high-level corporate employees to the area in recent weeks, as well as former CEO and powerful shareholder Howard Schultz, who held a meeting for workers at a Buffalo-area hotel last weekend ahead of the vote.
AFL-CIO president Liz Shuler tweeted on Tuesday that the corporation has used a number of tactics in the anti-union playbook, including "holding anti-union meetings framed as listening sessions" and telling workers, "Our benefits are already good."
"Starbucks will do everything it can to stop Workers United's organizing drive in Buffalo," Shuler tweeted, referring to the affiliate of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) which more than 100 Starbucks workers in the Buffalo area are voting on whether to join.
Workers have said the stores are chronically understaffed with insufficient training and pay scales that don't keep up with seniority. Starbucks reported record sales amounting to $29 billion in its 2021 fiscal year.
After the workers filed to hold union elections, Starbucks closed several stores in the Buffalo area and increased staffing at the three stores in question—a common union-busting tactic known as "packing" workplaces, which corporations take to dilute union support.
Former NLRB Chair Wilma Liebman told the New York Times last month that the company's actions appeared to be "part of an overall series of events that seems to create a tendency that people would be chilled or inhibited."
Last weekend, Schultz made waves among critics and some of the employees who attended the meeting he held in Buffalo, where he made an analogy between Starbucks workers and Holocaust victims.
Schultz told the workers that prisoners who were taken to concentration camps were given one blanket to share among five people and that "so much of that story is threaded into what we have tried to do at Starbucks, is share our blanket."
Jewish-led human rights group If Not Now denounced Schultz's use of "the memory of all those who perished in the Holocaust to discourage workers" from attempting to organize their workplace.
On Monday, two days after the meeting, Starbucks filed a motion requesting that the NLRB delay the mailing of ballots to workers while it reviews its decision to hold the election at three locations rather than one. Starbucks had earlier appealed that decision and requested that the employees vote in a single election, which would likely favor the corporation. With workers voting in three locations, a union could be formed with a simple majority at any one of the three stores.
Richard Bensinger, a former organizer with the AFL-CIO, told the Times this week that Starbucks clearly knew "they had to do something to massively disrupt" the union drive.
Workers at the three stores filed a complaint with the NLRB last week saying the company was "engaging in a campaign of threats, intimidation, surveillance, solicitation of grievances, and the closing of facilities"—which could potentially result in the board overturning the election result if the union drive fails.
The NLRB is set to count ballots for the three stores on December 9. On Tuesday, just before the board sent out the ballots, three more stores in Buffalo filed petitions to hold elections as well.
"We are well on our way to winning the first unionized Starbucks store in the U.S.," said Workers United.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

As SCOTUS Considers 'Extinguishing' Right to Abortion, Calls Mount for Congress to 'Step Up'

"Despite the protections that the legal framework like Roe provides, it has never been enough," said one doctor. "We continue to work toward reproductive justice."

Jessica Corbett ·

US Must Tackle Marine Plastics Pollution 'From Source to Sea': Report

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine study found that the U.S. is responsible for about a quarter of the plastics that enter the world's oceans each year.

Brett Wilkins ·

First US Omicron Case Confirmed as WHO Chief Decries Failure to Share Vaccines Globally

Factors including low vaccine coverage have created "a recipe for breeding and amplifying variants," the top health official said.

Andrea Germanos ·

Since Congress Lifted Crude Export Ban in 2015, US Has Dropped 'Climate Bomb' on World

Oil and gas exports from the Gulf Coast have surged by nearly 600%, and fossil fuel production in the Permian Basin has grown by 135%.

Kenny Stancil ·

Marking World AIDS Day, Campaigners Warn 'History Is Repeating Itself With Covid'

"In Africa alone, it's estimated up to 12 million people died needlessly in the time it took to make HIV treatment universally available. We cannot allow it to happen again with Covid-19."

Jake Johnson ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo