Buffalo worker blasts 'union-busting' Starbucks as results at 1 cafe are challenged

·3 min read

Workers at one Starbucks (SBUX) Store in Buffalo, New York, won a contentious victory last week by becoming the coffee giant's first unionized workplace.

Yet after votes were counted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a second cafe on Camp Road narrowly rejected the measure, an outcome organizers plan to challenge. Union organizers and their attorney claim there were “voices” that weren’t heard.

“I don't accept that as the full number at the end of the day, it being 12 [against] to 8 [in favor], just because as I know that there are people in my location that did not get their ballots counted,” Gianna Reeve, a shift supervisor at the Camp Road Starbucks, told Yahoo Finance on Friday.

Meanwhile, results from the third store were unclear as of Thursday's vote, because ballots were challenged during the counting process. However, Reeve is still counting it as a win.

“At the end of the day, it really doesn't matter. Honestly, if Camp Road [store] chooses to organize or not because the battle was getting from zero organized Starbucks locations to one Starbucks location organized and now we have two,” Reeve said.

The union had challenged six ballots during the vote count, deeming them as “the employee no longer works there.”

'Union busting' accusations

Starbucks workers speak to the media after union vote in Buffalo, New York, U.S., December 9, 2021.  REUTERS/Lindsay DeDario
Starbucks workers speak to the media after union vote in Buffalo, New York, U.S., December 9, 2021. REUTERS/Lindsay DeDario

The ballots will need to be certified by the NLRB's regional director, which could take a week. The next hurdle will be negotiating a contract with Starbucks.

According to Reeve, Starbucks — which publicly opposed the union vote — had closed down one of the locations in the area, and allowed those employees from that store to work at the third cafe on Genesee Street for about two weeks. The company then “declared” them eligible to vote, according to Reeve.

“We've always kind of theorized that this was a union busting tactic from Starbucks to kind of stuff the ballots,” said Reeve.

“We are declaring victory at Genesee Street. We have the hurdle still of having to go through those challenges and say that we're having contested votes,” she added.

The next day following the vote count, managers left an emotional letter for workers at the Elmwood location, describing themselves as "saddened" by the outcome.

The historic vote for Starbucks signals the rising power of labor and workers in the workforce. Starbucks executives have lobbied hard to keep workers from unionizing in the Buffalo location for months by holding face-to-face meetings – a move that Starbucks Workers United blasted “union busting.”

However, that hasn’t stopped three other nearby stores, and one Arizona cafe, to follow Buffalo’s lead.

“There's no more time for an empty seat at the table. We have proven that here in Buffalo, and we're proving that across the country and not just in Starbucks,” Reeve said.

“Service workers across the country, we have seen the surge already and I hope that this serves as an inspiration,” she added.

Nationwide support for unions was at 68% — its highest since the 1960’s, according to a Gallup poll in August, with support among people ages 18 to 34 at 77%. Still, the union membership rate in the U.S. was roughly 11% in 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, slightly higher than the prior year.

Dani Romero is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @daniromerotv

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