The Starbucks Union Campaign Has Won 16 Elections And Lost Just One

The Four Percent


The union representing Starbucks workers continues to grow every week.

Workers at all three of the coffee chain’s locations in Ithaca, New York, voted almost unanimously to join the union Workers United on Friday. The election results for the trio of stores were 19-1, 13-1 and 15-1.

Meanwhile, workers at a store in Overland Park, Kansas, voted 6-1 in favor of unionizing, although several ballots have been challenged and could still change the outcome. The union said it expects to prevail once the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that oversees union elections, has reviewed the eligibility of the challenged votes.

The election wins Friday came on the heels of three other victories the day before, when workers at a group of Starbucks stores in the Buffalo and Rochester areas of New York all voted to unionize. Following this week’s vote counts, the campaign known as Starbucks Workers United has won 16 elections and lost only one, and now represents hundreds of workers in several states.

All told, the campaign has filed for elections at roughly 200 stores around the country, making it likely many more will choose to unionize. Starbucks has roughly 9,000 corporate-owned stores in the U.S., and these are the first in the country to have union representation.

High-profile union backers including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) congratulated the campaign on its success Friday, with Sanders calling it “an enormous inspiration to workers all across the country.”

Starbucks has opposed the union campaign and held meetings with workers urging them to vote against the union. The company has managed to delay elections by filing appeals with the NLRB, arguing that workers should vote in elections on a regional basis, rather than for individual stores, but the labor board has rejected Starbucks’ arguments.

The company has fired several workers who happen to be union activists, including seven from a store in Memphis, Tennessee. Workers United has filed charges with the labor board arguing that the firings are retaliatory and meant to purge union supporters from the ranks. Starbucks has said it fired the Memphis workers because they violated company policy by allowing nonemployees into the store outside of work hours.

Bloomberg reported Friday that the labor board has determined the Memphis firings were illegal and intends to pursue a case against Starbucks unless the company chooses to settle. The labor board’s actions could result in workers being reinstated on the job.

“The Starbucks campaign has filed for union elections at roughly 200 stores around the country.”

The Starbucks campaign began last year in Buffalo, where workers unionized the first store in December. The organizing effort has spread like wildfire since then, with the union announcing new election petitions every week.

Former longtime CEO Howard Schultz recently returned to the helm of the company as it battles the organizing drive. In a recent talk with employees, Schultz said he was not anti-union, yet described the union campaign in dark terms.

​​“We can’t ignore what is happening in the country as it relates to companies throughout the country being assaulted, in many ways, by the threat of unionization,” he said.

The Starbucks union effort coincides with a growing organizing campaign at Amazon. The tech giant recently saw its first U.S. warehouse unionize when workers at the JFK8 facility in Staten Island, New York, voted 2,654 to 2,131 in favor of joining the new Amazon Labor Union. Workers there overcame an intense anti-union campaign waged by Amazon managers and outside consultants.

Amazon has already signaled it intends to challenge the vote and have the election results thrown out.


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