Historic unionizing efforts underway at Starbucks in upstate New York – Everett Post

(NEW YORK) – Starbucks workers in New York State plan to form the U.S. coffee chain’s first union as the labor movement gains momentum amid COVID-19 economic shocks.

Efforts to unionize at Starbucks have resulted in many employees gaining the upper hand due to unique conditions in the labor market. According to statistics from the Bureau of Labor, workers are quitting their jobs at one of the highest rates ever, and job vacancies have also reached record highs in recent months. Meanwhile, an apparent shortage of labor accepting low-wage service jobs has given employees new leverage as large companies struggle to find staff.

“We were labeled important workers, but a lot of my coworkers can barely afford rent and put groceries in the refrigerator in the same week,” Casey Moore, 25, a Starbucks employee in the Buffalo area and a member of the union organizing committee, said Thursday across from ABC News. “I think the pandemic has definitely shown the need for change because it is unsustainable.”

The union formation offer also comes after Starbucks posted consolidated net sales of $ 8.1 billion in the fourth quarter. Starbucks shares, which closed at $ 111.44 on Thursday, are up more than 19% over the past year and have nearly doubled in the past five years.

Ballots for a union election were sent out to Starbucks employees in three locations in the Buffalo area Wednesday evening, despite last minute attempts by Starbucks to delay sending the ballots as the company tried to get all Buffalo area stores into the vote.

National Labor Relations Board spokeswoman Kayla Blado confirmed to ABC News Thursday that ballots for Wednesday’s union elections were sent out at 5 p.m. local time after the board failed to respond to Starbucks’ motion to suspend the election by then. The ballots will be confiscated, Blado said, meaning they won’t be counted until the board of directors decides whether or not to consider Starbucks’ motion.

If the board rejects the request for review, the ballots will be counted on December 9, according to Blado. If the board approves the application, a new date will be chosen for the counting of the ballot papers.

“I love my job and I love what I do, and that only made it incredibly frustrating to see their reaction,” Moore told ABC News of Starbucks’ apparent response to the union offer. “One of the reasons I started working at Starbucks was because of the progressive values ​​they have as a company and it was honestly shocking to see this whole thing.”

The workers want to be represented by Workers United, a member of the Service Employees International Union.

The Starbucks Workers United group confirmed on Twitter Wednesday evening that the ballots are in the mail and are going to Starbucks partners who are voting to organize the first unionized deals from over 8,000 corporate locations across the United States

“Despite repeated attempts by Starbucks to prevent partners from voting, the NLRB has reaffirmed our legal voting rights to join a union here in Buffalo,” said a statement from Starbucks Workers United. “The Starbucks PR teams say they want partners to vote, but they continue to use every delaying tactic in the book to try to stop an actual vote.”

“Hopefully, against all odds, the whole country can see what partners are doing in Buffalo and realize how outdated our labor laws are when companies are allowed to intervene so dramatically in the process,” the statement added. “When we applied for a union as a partner, we could have voted. A company as big as Starbucks shouldn’t be able to use its wealth to intimidate us. “

Moore said working on the frontline of the service industry during the pandemic had been incredibly stressful, and just today a customer she served across the transit told her openly that he tested positive for COVID-19.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, union membership has shrunk over the past few decades, dropping to 10.8% among salaried employees and workers in the United States in 2020. In 1983, the first year the BLS collected this data, it was 20.1%.

Despite declining numbers, union support in the US is at its highest level since 1965, according to Gallup data. About 68% of Americans are in favor of unions in 2021, the highest Gallup has since hit 71 percent in 1965.

Many labor economists have attributed this gap between union support and union membership to increasing employer opposition to union formation and outdated labor laws that make union formation difficult. Lawyers are trying to reform this through proposed legislation known as the PRO Act, which aims to expand job protection for unionized workers.

Moore told ABC News that she joined the union’s organizing committee a few months after starting at Starbucks last summer.

“I’ve always had positive thoughts about unions – my dad is in a teachers ‘union and all – so I knew it was a good thing, but at first I thought,’ I don’t know – I’ve never heard of unions in the service industry”, said Moore.

However, she said she was inspired to get involved after “meeting people from Workers United and talking to my colleagues about why they wanted to unionize and actually have a say in our workplaces.”

“I’ve learned so much about labor law, but I never thought, just … the sheer madness of this whole process,” added Moore.

Starbucks executives have said that the union would change the direct relationship that employees have with the company, and they want to maintain that relationship.

“We also asked the National Labor Relations Board to allow all partners in Buffalo stores to vote instead of just three stores,” said Rossann Williams, executive vice president of Starbucks North America, in a letter to employees last month. the one with . was shared by ABC News. “As you know, Starbucks stores are closely related in one city or market – partners like to work routinely in other stores, we transfer and nurture partners between stores, we share inventory in the market, we operate by the same guidelines, and we share the same managers. “

“We believe that instead of limiting voting to three stores, all Buffalo store partners should vote because each partner’s voice is important, especially on an important decision that may affect them all,” added Williams. She said they hold meetings with staff in Buffalo so they “know the facts and have a space to hear from us directly so they can make their own informed decision.”

“I want to make it clear that our actions in Buffalo are not about whether we are union-friendly or anti-union,” added Williams. “We’re quite simply Pro Starbucks partners. As you know, our heritage and culture are based on the belief that by working directly as partners, we can build a different kind of business. “

In the same letter, Williams also made it clear that “we are asking our partners to vote ‘no’ to a union – not because we are against unions, but because we believe we will best improve our partnership and work together to drive operational change direct relationship. “

In late October, when union efforts were in full swing, Starbucks announced it would raise employee wages and make other changes to improve working conditions. By the summer of 2022, according to the company’s fourth quarter income statement, all hourly employees will earn an average of $ 17, which is between $ 15 and $ 23 in the US

Moore said there was “no doubt” that Starbucks was introducing a new seniority pay system in response to its efforts.

“They had 15 years to implement this policy and they just did that before we, the first three deals, started voting, a week I think,” she said. “Well, it’s the kind of thing where you can see the power we have together, only with the threat of unionization.”

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