Labor & Workforce

Starbucks workers make history with vote to unionize

By Jorge Fuentelsaz

Buffalo, New York, Dec 9 (EFE).- Women and non-binary people played an important role in the effort culminating in Thursday’s successful unionization vote at a Starbucks store in this rust-belt city.

Employees at a second Buffalo-area store voted against the union, while the outcome of the vote by workers at a third store remains to be determined pending the resolution of ballot challenges.

The coffee giant operates 8,953 stores in the United States, including 20 in greater Buffalo.

Casey Moore, a prominent figure in Starbucks Workers United, said that with only five men among the score of baristas at her store, seeing women in the forefront of the campaign was hardly surprising.

The 25-year-old Moore, who hopes to attend law school and become a labor attorney, said that the movement was inspired by the example of employees of the Buffalo-based chain SPoT Coffee, who formed a union in 2017.

Many Starbucks baristas saw that the SPot Coffee works obtained better pay and benefits by unionizing and wondered whether they could do the same, she said at the SB Workers United office inside an old Ford Motor Co. plant in Buffalo.

But the straw that broke the camel’s back was the Covid-19 pandemic.

After finding themselves working in dangerous conditions while the company reaped soaring profits, Starbucks employees were ready “to stand up and say ‘enough,'” Moore said.

Though some of the fed-up workers had spent years with Starbucks, none of them had experience in a union, so SB Workers United turned to Richard Bensinger, founder of the Organizing Institute, who urged them to affiliate with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Starbucks responded aggressively, bringing dozens of senior executives to Buffalo to monitor employees and convey the message that a union would run counter to the company’s principles.

Moore said that she was somewhat taken aback by management’s tactics in light of Starbucks’ long-standing attempts to present itself as a progressive company.

Four other Starbucks stores – three of them in Buffalo – are seeking to unionize. EFE jfu/dr

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