Starbucks workers in Buffalo, New York, are leading an organizing effort under the name Starbucks Workers United (Twitter Profile). Workers at three stores filed petitions with the National Labor Relations Board to organize elections for union representation.
Currently, none of the more than 8,000 Starbucks stores operated by the company in the United States are unionized. The company, which qualifies all its employees as “partners”, has not seen such a large-scale organized trade union movement since at least the early 2000s.
“We believe that there can be no true partnership without sharing power and without accountability,” a letter issued by the Starbucks Workers United organizing committee to the CEO of Starbucks said last week, Kevin Johnson. “We organize a union because we believe it is the best way to make a meaningful contribution to our partnership with the company and to ensure both that our voices are heard and that, when we are heard, we have the the same power to influence change and get things done. ended.”
The group said in a letter yesterday that it had grown to include at least 80 Starbucks employees from 14 Buffalo-area stores.
In a press release yesterday, Starbucks Workers United said the COVID-19 pandemic has added a burden to employees, with many feeling “stretched” and “disrespectful” as the company has continued to maximize profitability .
“Business decisions don’t match the daily struggles we face,” said Michael Sanabria, Starbucks employee at the Transit Commons store in Buffalo. “Since I joined the company four years ago, the focus has been on short drive-thru times and meaningful customer relationships, which are at odds with each other. Recently, we were told we weren’t allowed to turn off mobile controls, which is usually what starts to overwhelm the team.
Starbucks has long boasted publicly about how it treats workers through wages and benefits. The company offers a number of health, dental and vision packages, company stock and savings plans, tuition reimbursement for undergraduate degrees at Arizona State. University and other benefits.
In a statement shared with The New York Times and other sources, Starbucks said, “We respect the right of our partners to organize, but believe they would not find it necessary given our pro-partner environment. .
This matches, word for word, a company statement released in 2006, when Starbucks was involved in its last major union organizing effort, involving baristas in New York City coffee shops and a subsequent dispute with the National Labor Relations Board.
The current effort comes just a week after employees at Milwaukee-based Colectivo Coffee narrowly voted in favor of unionization, making it the largest unionized coffee chain in the country, if contracts are ratified. It also comes as food and beverage retailers across the United States struggle to attract and retain workers.
The effort is also notable for its location. Buffalo was the ground zero for organizing efforts among SPoT Coffee employees, which culminated in unionization in 2019. 150 miles east in Ithaca, New York, are the employees. by Gimme! Coffee made history thanks to an organizing effort in 2017. They ratified their first collective agreements in 2018.
In the letter from Starbucks Workers United, Lexi Rizzo, a six-year-old Buffalo Starbucks store employee, described baristas as the “face and strength of the business.”
“We are not anti-Starbucks. We are Starbucks, ”said Rizzo. “I spent six years at Starbucks because I really love it. And I believe when you really love something, you have to fight to make it better. “
The organization has asked the NLRB to vote on granting a union vote within two weeks.
Nick Brown is the editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine.