Starbucks tells NLRB to let all Buffalo workers vote on union effort

Coffee giant Starbucks has told the National Labor Relations Board that all 450 workers in its market in Buffalo, New York, should be allowed to vote on unionization, according to a Starbucks note sent to their colleagues. which was obtained by CNBC.

“We believe this will make this process fair and respectful for every partner in Buffalo. It will ensure that all of you have the right to vote, and the voice you deserve in this process,” said Allyson Peck, regional vice president of Starbucks, Northeast Region. , in a letter to Buffalo employees.

The coffee chain is known for calling its employees “partners” and promotes among the most progressive benefits in fast food and in the restaurant space, but runs a syndication campaign in several stores in the area. Buffalo. Workers involved in the effort said working conditions had worsened during the pandemic and that they were seeking a more equitable partnership with the company.

The letter to Buffalo employees also said the company was taking action to return business operations to company standards, including helping with staff and repairing warehouse problems quickly.

“Ask us something – we’re all here to help,” Peck said in the letter. “You have the right to work directly with Starbucks – and if you don’t want to give up that right, you have to vote ‘no.’

On Aug. 23, Starbucks workers at three Buffalo stores said they would file petitions with the NLRB to hold union elections. The organizers, Starbucks Workers United, have sent a letter to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson calling for a fair election with no interference, including no negative repercussions from management or threats.

“Starbucks’ mission is to improve coffee communities at the same time. Respecting the right of partner organizers will help us help the company accomplish this mission by improving our lives and raising standards across the industry,” he said. said the letter.

There are 20 Starbucks stores in the Buffalo market. If successful, the move to unionize will affect the coffee giant’s 8,000 corporate property stores across the country and could have a ripple effect on the industry as a whole.

Petitions to present at two additional boutiques were pulled by the organizers since the five boutiques would have been consolidated and that would have pushed back the initial audition. This decision encouraged organizers to accuse Starbucks of “union exploitation” tactics.

In recent days, Rossann Williams, executive vice president of Starbucks in North America, has been in Buffalo to hold listening sessions with workers. A person familiar with her program said she will stay in the market for the foreseeable future. Starbucks founder and former CEO Howard Schultz also visited Buffalo to hear from partners.

“As the company’s founder, we understand that he’s passionate about what’s happening here, and he’s been in the market to listen and connect directly with our partners,” Starbucks spokesman Reggie Borges told CNBC.

Starbucks executives have held more than 2,000 listening sessions in U.S. markets over the past year, the company said. Williams participated in more than 175 sessions. The company has also held a weekly virtual meeting with business and retail workers since the pandemic began.

Before Starbucks sent out its letter, Starbucks Workers United told CNBC in an emailed statement: “Rossann never came to Buffalo before the union campaign. We are partners, but they are afraid of what it means to be true. partnership: empowerment and a voice at the table If Rossann means what she says to value “partner-to-partner communication,” she should welcome our union and look forward to negotiating with partners working on the plan each day and stop calling our union “third.”

Starbucks called both the union bankruptcy claims and the claims that Williams spied on workers “categorically false.”

“Leaders are in the market to listen to partners, address concerns and act. We are pro-partners, not anti-unions,” Borges said.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) showed his support for the effort on Twitter Monday by posting a photo of himself holding a cup of Starbucks coffee with the word “Union!” written on.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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