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NLRB Gives Go-Ahead on Starbucks Union Vote

The Board rejected Starbucks attempt to stop the vote count, results expected Thursday

Brian Young's picture
Dec 08, 2021

Starbucks workers in Buffalo New York won a big victory before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) after the board ruled that a union vote could go ahead. If the vote succeeds, the three Buffalo locations would be the first union Starbucks locations in the country.

As UCOMM previously reported, workers at three Buffalo locations filed for a union election and began voting in November. At the time the company took part in a vicious anti-union campaign and went as far as to fly former CEO Howard Schultz into Buffalo to speak to the workers at a mandatory meeting.

The company also filed a lawsuit with the NLRB to get the counting of ballots stopped. The company was asking the board to impound the votes and not count them. Voting concludes today, December 8th, and the ballots are scheduled to be counted on December 9th. However, the NLRB rejected this last-ditch effort by Starbucks and ordered the counting to go ahead as planned.

“Once again Starbucks tried to stop partners from voting, and once again they failed. At this point the company has strayed so far from its original values it’s hard to recognize the company I started with. This is exactly why we need a union – so our voices can be heard and we can work to make Starbucks the company we used to love,” said Michelle Eisen, a barista at the Elmwood Starbucks.

According to Starbucks Workers United, the company has been running an extensive campaign to get employees to vote against the union including sending out text messages reminding people to vote and mandatory captive audience meetings. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson also addressed the union campaign by telling shareholders, “There’s no shortage of resumes of people that want to come to work at Starbucks.” This has been seen as a direct warning to the Buffalo workers that they could be replaced if they vote in the union.

“From the day partners filed the first NLRB petitions to hold union elections, Starbucks has shown it has no shame and will sink to any depth to try to break partners’ momentum, sow confusion, and interfere with partners’ right to a fair election,” said Ian Hayes, an attorney working with the union. “The company has failed every step of the way because the legal positions it has taken are intellectually vacant, and today’s decision by the NLRB is the latest proof of that.”

While the workers face a brutal anti-union campaign, they have gotten support from a number of high-profile elected officials. This includes Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand who each held in-person sit-down meetings with the workers to listen to their concerns and reasons for organizing. Senator Bernie Sanders also held a national Livestream discussion for the workers on Tuesday night to bring national attention to their organizing efforts.

While it is unclear if the Buffalo effort will be successful, these three locations appear to have lit a spark under other Starbucks workers as three other locations in Buffalo and one in Arizona have filed for union elections.

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