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Starbucks location in Buffalo becomes coffee chain's first US store to vote to unionize

Starbucks Elmwood
Posted at 12:03 PM, Dec 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-10 10:41:46-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Workers at a Starbucks store on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo have voted "yes" to become the first Starbucks store in the U.S. to unionize.

The vote total was 19 "yes" to eight "no."

If Starbucks chooses to recognize the union, or the National Labor Relations Board certifies the union, the company will be required to collectively bargain with the workers for a contract for employment. However, it's unclear how long those negotiations could take.

"Now we want to say to Starbucks, this is not who you are. This is not who we are," said Michelle Eisen, an Elmwood Ave. store employee and a union supporter. "Union busting is not this company. We are this company, and we're standing here having succeeded in spite of everything that has been done to try and prevent this."

A Starbucks spokesperson told The Associated Press Thursday that the company was still determining its next steps.

“Every partner matters. It’s how we built the company and how we will continue to run the company,” spokesman Reggie Borges said. “We will continue to focus on the best Starbucks experience we can deliver for every partner and our customers.”

The workers garnered national attention in their effort to unionize. Recently, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) met with the employees and held a town hall earlier in the week.

Workers are seeking better pay, particularly for longtime employees. Employees also seek more of a say in how the stores are run.

Workers at nearby Starbucks locations in Cheektowaga, New York and Hamburg, New York also voted on unionization on Thursday. While it appeared workers at the Cheektowaga location voted in favor of unionization, several votes in that election have been challenged. Workers at the Hamburg location voted against unionization.

NPR reports that Starbucks had previously fought off unionization attempts in New York City and Philadelphia.

CNN reports that Starbucks employs 235,000 people at 9,000 stores across the country.

This story was originally published by Paul Ross on Scripps station WKBW in Buffalo, New York.