After months of campaigning (and alleged union-busting efforts by Starbucks) three Buffalo area locations—one on Elmwood Avenue, one on Camp Road, and one on Genesee Street—cast their votes for unionizing, and on Thursday, November 9th, those votes were counted. Each cafe voted individually, meaning some may unionize while others could not.
Now the votes have been counted, and at least one of the Starbucks locations has succeeded in unionizing, making it the first US-based company-owned location to do so.
The first official result came from the Elmwood location, and by a final tally of 19 to eight voted in favor of unionizing. Meanwhile the Starbucks Camp location voted against unionizing by a total of 12 to eight.
The final location to be called is Genesee, whose outcome was not yet been officially decided. Leading 15 to nine, Starbucks Workers United claimed victory at the location, but seven challenged ballots—one by the company and six by the union organizers—are yet to be decided. Per Yahoo! Finance, Starbucks closed one area location and allowed displaced employees to to temporarily work at the Genesee location and then “declared” them eligible to vote, which one pro-union Starbucks worker described as “a union busting tactic from Starbucks to kind of stuff the ballots.”
When the announcement came out that Elmwood had succeeded in their efforts, pro-union and progressive politicians took to Twitter to congratulate organizers on their victory, including Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Elizabeth Warren, Chuck Schumer, New York Attorney General Letitia James, Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, and former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration Robert Reich.
With the decisions now mostly made, it is up to Starbucks to recognize the unions and agree to collectively bargain, which one investment group, Trillium, who owns $48 million in shares of Starbucks, has urged the company to do “expeditiously and in good faith.” The newly-formed union will now work to bargain for “better staffing, training, and pay, including steady wage increases for workers who stay with the company for years,” one pro-union Starbucks worker tells NPR.
Though they comprise a very, very small portion of Starbucks’ company-owned cafes in the US, the successful unionizing of these potentially two cafes may be the catalyst for similar efforts at other locations; one Arizona Starbucks is already working to unionize. The coffee industry has historically had little union representation, but with the win in Buffalo as well as successful union efforts at Colectivo in Wisconsin and Illinois and fellow upstater’s Gimme! Coffee, this narrative is quickly shifting. Will 2022 be the year of the coffee union?
Zac Cadwalader is the managing editor at Sprudge Media Network and a staff writer based in Dallas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.