Starbucks facing increased efforts ay unionizing at several locations

In a significant development, employees of Starbucks Corp voted to join a union at a store in Buffalo, New York, marking the company’s first unionized company-owned location in the United States.

Workers at a second location in New York voted to reject the drive to unionize.

The vote count for a third store in the upstate New York city ended without a definitive result since a number of ballots were still under review, a process that could stretch into early next year, according to Ian Hayes, an attorney for the union.

“We will keep listening,” said Rossann Williams, president of Starbucks North America, in a letter to employees after the vote. “These are preliminary results with no immediate changes to our partner relationship as the NLRB process continues.”

The development comes at a time when Corporate America is eyeing new union organizing campaigns midst a labor shortage that is leading to higher wages at most large retailer and restaurant chains.

According to experts, the Starbucks results may encourage union activity at other companies.

“Although it’s a small number of workers, the result has huge symbolic importance,” said John Logan, a labor professor at San Francisco State University.

Incidentally, Amazon.com Inc is also facing a new election at one of its Alabama warehouses after results of the previous election, which the union lost, were overturned last month.

The election at Buffalo involves just over 100 workers altogether, a tiny fraction of Starbucks’ roughly 220,000 employees in its U.S. cafes.

A victory of unionizing is likely to embolden other stores to launch organizing drives. Starbucks has more than 8,000 stores in the US. Already, three other Buffalo-area stores and one store in Mesa, Arizona, have petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to join the union.

“I am absolutely optimistic,” said James Skretta, a barista at one of the other New York stores to call for an election. “We feel as though this is validation for what it is that we’ve been doing.”

The outcome encourages Skretta to “withstand what we know will continue to be an aggressive anti-union campaign,” they said.

With the news reaching the market, shares of Starbucks closed down by about 1% at $115.35.

A few local baristas have decried what they described as aggressive company tactics, including flooding Buffalo locations with executives, holding meetings with employees and even bringing in ex-CEO Howard Schultz to talk to workers and extol the virtues of existing wage hikes and company benefits.

Starbucks has denied that any of its activities amount to union busting.

In Buffalo, about 15 Starbucks employees who support the union drive gathered in a room to watch results. Many jumped, screamed and hugged when they realized they had enough votes to win the first store to be counted, on Elmwood Avenue.

The vote was 19-8 in favor of joining the union.

Baristas and shift supervisors from the second location on Camp Road voted 12-8 to reject the union. Hayes, the union’s lawyer, said during a news conference that the union will challenge those results.



Categories: Creativity, Entrepreneurship, HR & Organization, Strategy

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