Historic unionizing efforts underway at Starbucks in upstate New York

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The efforts have started with the labor movement gaining momentum after the shocks of COVID-19.

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Starbucks workers in upstate New York are seeking to unionize the coffee chain’s first in the US, as the labor movement gains steam in the wake of the COVID-19-related shock to the economy.

The efforts to unionize at Starbucks come as unique circumstances have given many employees an upper hand in the labor market. As per records, workers are leaving their jobs at some of the highest rates Bureau of Labor Statistics Data, and job opportunities have also reached record highs in recent months. Meanwhile, the apparent lack of workers accepting low-paying jobs in the service industry has offered new hires as major companies struggle to find employees.

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Casey Moore, 25, a Starbucks worker and member in the Buffalo area, “we’re called essential workers, yet many of my coworkers can barely afford rent and put groceries in the fridge in a single week.” The union organizing committee told ABC News on Thursday. “I think the pandemic certainly highlighted the need for change, because it is not sustainable.”

Federalization bid also comes after Starbucks informed of Earned record fourth quarter consolidated net revenue of $8.1 billion. Shares of Starbucks, which closed Thursday at $111.44, are up 19% over the past year and have nearly doubled over the past five years.

Despite a last-minute effort from Starbucks to delay sending ballots, ballots were sent to Starbucks employees for a union election at three locations in the Buffalo area on Wednesday evening as the company closed all Buffalo-area stores. sought to be included. Vote.

National Labor Relations Board press secretary Kayla Bladow confirmed to ABC News on Thursday that union election ballots were mailed Wednesday at 5 p.m. local time after the board did not respond to Starbucks’ proposal to hold back. Until that time election ballots are being confiscated, Bladow said, meaning they won’t be counted until the board decides whether they’re going to review Starbucks’ request.

If the board denies the request for review, the ballots will be counted on December 9, according to Blado. If the board accepts the request, a new date will be selected for the counting of ballots.

“I love my job and I love what I do, and it’s made it even more incredibly frustrating to watch their reaction,” Moore said in candid response to ABC News of Starbucks’ unionization bid. . “One of the reasons I first started working at Starbucks was because of the progressive values ​​they claim to have as a company, and it honestly shocks life through this whole thing.” going to be.”

The workers are seeking representation by Workers United, which is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union.

Starbucks Workers United Group confirmed on Twitter Wednesday evening that ballots are in the mail and going to Starbucks Partners, which is voting to organize the first of more than 8,000 corporate locations in the U.S. to organize unionized stores.

Starbucks Workers United said in a statement, “Despite Starbucks’ repeated attempts to bar partners from voting, the NLRB has once again upheld our legal right to vote to join a union in Buffalo. ” “Starbucks’ PR teams say they want partners to vote, yet they continue to use every delay tactic in the book to try and prevent the actual vote.”

“Hopefully, the entire nation can see what partners in Buffalo are doing against the odds and get a feel for how old our labor laws are when companies are forced to go through this process so dramatically,” the statement said. allowed to intervene.” “When the partners applied for union, we should have been allowed to vote. A big company like Starbucks shouldn’t have been able to use their money to intimidate us.”

Moore said working with the service industry’s front lines during the pandemic has been incredibly stressful, and just today a client openly told her through the drive-thru that she tested positive for COVID-19 Is.

Union membership has declined in recent decades, falling to 10.8% among salaried and paid workers in the US in 2020. Bureau of Labor Statistics, In 1983, the first year the BLS collected this data, the figure was 20.1%.

Despite recession figures, approval for labor unions in the US is at its highest level since 1965, according to gallup data, Some 68% of Americans approve of labor unions in 2021, the highest recorded by Gallup since the 71% mark in 1965.

Many labor economists attribute this gap between support for unions and union membership rates to growing employer resistance to unionization and outdated labor laws that make unions difficult to form. Advocates are seeking to rectify this through a proposed law known as the PRO Act, which seeks to expand workplace safety for employees who want to unionize.

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

“I’ve always had positive thoughts about unions — my dad is in a teachers union and stuff — so I knew they were cool stuff, but at first I was like, ‘I don’t know — I’ve never heard of the service industry. of unions,'” said Moore.

She said she was inspired to join, however, “after meeting people from Workers United and, like, hearing my coworkers talk about why they wanted to form a union, which really worked at the table.” I like to have a seat but really have a say in our workplaces.”

“I’ve learned a lot about labor law, but I never expected the whole process to be just like crazy,” Moore said.

Starbucks leaders have said unionizing will change the direct relationship employees have with the company, and they want to maintain that relationship.

“We have asked the National Labor Relations Board to allow all partners of Buffalo stores to vote instead of just three stores,” said Rossen Williams, executive vice president of Starbucks North America, in a letter to employees last month. ABC News. “As you know, Starbucks stores in a city or market are deeply interconnected – partners prefer to work regular shifts at other stores, we move partners between stores and promote “We share inventory across the market, we operate under similar policies, and we share the same set of leaders.”

Williams said, “We believe that rather than limiting the vote to three stores, all Buffalo store partners should vote because every partner’s voice matters, especially in an important decision that could affect all of them.” Is.” She said they are hosting meetings with employees in Buffalo so they can “know the facts and have a place to listen directly to us so they can make their informed decisions.”

“I want to be clear that our actions in Buffalo are not about whether we are pro-union or anti-union,” Williams said. “It’s simple enough that we’re a pro-Starbucks partner. As you know, our heritage and culture is built on the belief that by working directly together as partners, we can create a different kind of company.”

In the same letter, Williams also clarified that “we are asking partners to vote ‘no’ to a union – not because we are opposed to unions, but because we believe that we can support our partnership.” Will enhance and drive operational changes together. A direct relationship.”

In late October, when unionization efforts were in full swing, Starbucks Announced that it is raising the wages of employees and making other changes to improve working conditions. By the summer of 2022, according to the company’s fourth-quarter earnings statement, all hourly workers across the United States will earn an average of $17, ranging from $15 to $23.

Moore said there was “no doubt” in his mind that Starbucks instituted a new seniority pay system, it was in response to his efforts.

“They had 15 years to implement that policy, and they had already done that, like, I think it was a week before we, the first three stores, started voting,” she said. “So, it’s things like that, where you can see what power we have with just the threat of unionizing.”

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