Congratulations To The Fine Workers At The First Unionized Starbucks Shop!
A Starbucks in Buffalo, New Yor,k made history on Thursday by becoming the very first unionized Starbucks shop in the United States of America! Hooray!
The shop, which is on Elmwood Avenue, voted 19-8 in favor of forming a union yesterday, a hard-fought battle in light of the extreme union-busting measures that corporate took to keep it from happening. A second store in Buffalo voted against unionizing, 12-8, although that is being challenged as workers believe not all eligible votes were counted. A third store also had a vote yesterday, the results of which are still being challenged by both parties.
Via Huffington Post:
“Today we did it, in spite of everything the company has thrown at us,” said Michelle Eisen, a barista at the store where the union won, on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo. “We’d like to offer the olive branch to the company and say let’s put this behind us. ... Help us negotiate the best contract that the service industry has ever seen.”
The votes were the culmination of contentious dueling campaigns between the pro-union workers and company management. After the workers filed for elections this fall, Starbucks dispatched outside managers and executives to the Buffalo area for weeks. The company’s famous co-founder, Howard Schultz, even delivered a speech to workers at a local hotel where he tried to discourage them from unionizing.
Intimidation tactics by the company included sending in over 100 corporate executives to "work" at the stores — including the CEO and vice president of the company — holding excessive mandatory meetings meant to discourage employees from unionizing to the point of telling them they could actually go to prison for doing so, taking down pamphlets informing employees of their rights, etc. At the Camp Road location in Hamburg, the shop that voted against unionizing, the company reportedly forced out workers who were considering unionizing and replaced them with new workers, whom they then inundated with anti-union propaganda.
When workers announced their campaign, Starbucks launched an aggressive union-busting campaign.\n\nIt sent founder Howard Schultz to Buffalo, flooded stores with new employees, and held captive audience meetings.\n\nIt\u2019s now being investigated by the NLRB.pic.twitter.com/VTot1eRWSs— More Perfect Union (@More Perfect Union) 1639082416
The Elmwood Starbucks will not, however, be the only unionized coffee shop in the area. Just a bit down the street is SPoT coffee, a Buffalo-based small chain with very good sandwiches and workers in Rochester and Buffalo who voted to unionize back in 2019. This is part of what anti-worker, anti-union types fear — a domino effect. One place gets unionized, people get better pay, benefits and a seat at the table, and people who see that want the same thing for themselves. Not to mention that the kind of union-busting scare tactics companies use to keep workers from organizing become a whole lot less effective when they actually know and talk to other unionized workers.
This is what Starbucks is afraid will happen with their other stores and why they went so hard trying to prevent the Buffalo stores from unionizing. Because once the other stores see that none of the workers at the Elmwood store have been sent to prison for unionizing and hear from those workers that they are happy with the situation, none of their intimidation tactics are going to work. Clearly, if executives really believed that workers would hate being unionized, they would have left the Buffalo locations alone without fear that it would "spread" to other stores.
What we are seeing this year is an unprecedented surge in strikes and union organizing across multiple sectors after decades of anti-union, anti-worker, pro-"whatever the job creators want" sentiment. It's a necessary backlash that was going to come eventually, a backlash to the "if you're not a lazy asshole you'll be happy with your long hours, no vacation, and low pay!" culture that had come to define the working experience for most Americans. The fact that Starbucks gave it their all to stop the Starbucks shop from organizing and failed is a massively big deal and a signal to workers across the country that they can actually do this.
And they can.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse