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Arizona Starbucks becomes first outside New York to unionise

MESA, ARIZONA (AP) – Employees at a Starbucks in Phoenix, United States (US) voted on Friday to form a union, becoming the first store outside New York to organise.

Several workers from a Mesa Starbucks store cheered and hugged at a local union hall after the results came in. Workers were overwhelmingly in favour of unionising, voting 25-3. Forty-three ballots in total were initially mailed out, organisers said.

“The way that we smoked them with how many we got – yeses – that really shows that this is really a movement for people and we just want what is kind of an inalienable right for people,” said a shift supervisor at the store Liz Alanna. “It feels good what we were fighting for, everybody wanted.”

Starbucks “will respect the process and will bargain in good faith”, spokesman Reggie Borges said in an email. “We hope that the union does the same,” he added.

Pro-union leaders said Starbucks workers deserve the right to collectively bargain on issues like benefits, seniority pay and pandemic safety protocols.

Michelle Eisen, a barista at the Buffalo, NY, Elmwood Starbucks, helps out the local Starbucks Workers United. PHOTO: AP

Tyler Ralston, another shift supervisor, said he is excited that workers now may be able to make meaningful changes. “We would like to be able to not feel understaffed. We would like to have better working conditions, having things fixed on time. A pension of course would be a great thing,” Ralston said.

Originally scheduled for last week, the election was postponed after Starbucks filed a request for a review with the Washington DC-based National Labor Relations Board. The Seattle-based coffee giant argued that a single store should not be allowed to hold a vote. Instead, a vote should include all the locations in that store’s assigned district. The labour board denied the request, saying it did not see any issues.

The organisers in Mesa called the request a “union busting” tactic by the company, Alanna said. She also alleged Starbucks implemented other strategies like having upper-level managers shadow workers to make sure they weren’t organising. Borges, the Starbucks spokesman, called accusations of union-busting “categorically false”.

The Starbucks in Mesa is now the first to unionise outside of Buffalo, New York, where organising efforts first took off.

Over 65 stores in 20 states have filed petitions with the labour board to hold union elections since two in Buffalo unionised in the last few months, according to labour union Workers United.


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