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12/09/2021

Report: Starbucks workers at Buffalo store unionize

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Starbucks
At least one U.S. Starbucks store will have unionized employees.

Starbucks now has one U.S. corporate store which is unionized.

Workers at a company-owned Starbucks location in Buffalo have voted in favor of unionization, 19-8,  reported CNBC. The employees voted to organize under the Workers United New York, a branch of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

In addition, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) confirmed employees at a second store in Buffalo voted against unionization, and is currently tallying votes from workers at a third Starbucks store in Buffalo that also voted on unionization. The votes come after a months-long dispute between employees seeking a unionization vote and Starbucks management which began in August 2021, when Starbucks employees from the three Buffalo locations first petitioned the NLRB for a vote on whether to unionize. Starbucks sought to persuade the labor board to require that workers at all 20 Buffalo-area stores take part in the election instead of allowing stores to vote individually.

However, CNBC reports the NLRB allowed the stores to vote as single units, resulting in 81 workers being eligible to vote instead of 450 across all 20 Buffalo-area stores. Three additional corporate Starbucks stores in Buffalo, as well as one corporate location in Mesa, Ariz., are also petitioning the NLRB for the right to conduct unionization votes.

In October 2021, as the dispute among employees seeking a unionization vote, Starbucks, and the NLRB was in full gear, Starbucks enacted a number of wage and benefit improvements. These included pledging to raise wages at least twice in 2022, bringing its average pay to nearly $17 an hour. 

Additionally, in summer 2022, Starbucks’ average pay for all U.S. hourly employees will be nearly $17 an hour. The increases will bring Starbuck’s wage floor to $15 per hour but, based on tenure and location, some employees could earn as much as $23 an hour. Starbucks average hourly pay is $14 an hour. Last December, the company said it would increase its pay to $15 an hour during the next three years.

Including wage and benefit increases throughout the pandemic, Starbucks estimated the increases total "approximately $1 billion in incremental investments in annual wages and benefits over the last two years."

[Read More: Starbucks to boost wages and expand benefits—again]

In addition, Starbucks is added recruiting specialists across all U.S. markets and is extending its $200 referral bonuses to help attract new employees. The company is also investing in store employee training, including a complete redesign of its “Barista Basics” guide to include added training time for all roles as well as practice shifts. Starbucks is also looking to expand beyond its 40 “highly successful” training stores. The stores are dedicated entirely to training employees in this area.

In other moves aimed at improving working conditions, Starbucks is investing in forecasting capabilities to improve store staffing, testing a “shifts app” designed to make it easier for employees to work available shifts that meets their needs, and improving behind-the-bar floor design and equipment, including testing a cold beverage station in select stores.

According to CNBC, Starbucks sent top executives and its former CEO Howard Schultz to the three Buffalo stores, which resulted in workers filing a federal labor charge accusing Starbucks of illegal anti-union activity. Starbucks denies these allegations.