Starbucks fights expanding unionisation effort at its stores

AP – Starbucks is fighting an expanded effort to unionise its stores, even as a union vote proceeds at three of the coffee-chain’s locations in Buffalo, New York.

Union organisers from three additional Buffalo-area stores appeared before the National Labor Relations Board on Thursday, asking to hold union votes at each of their stores.

The workers say they want more input on pay and store operations and they’re seeking representation by Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union.

Starbucks’ attorney at the hearing reiterated the company’s request to conduct one vote with all 20 stores in the Buffalo area.

The labour board hearing is expected to last for several days.

In late October, the labour board in the Buffalo region approved union votes at three separate Buffalo-area stores. Starbucks has appealed that ruling to the full labour board in Washington, but voting began last month despite that appeal. The labour board could count those votes as early as December 9. Starbucks has said around 111 employees are eligible to vote at those three stores.

Booth advertising unionisation efforts at Starbucks. PHOTO: AP

Starbucks has never had unionised workers at its United States (US) stores in its 50-year history. The Seattle-based company says its 8,000 company-owned US stores function best when it has flexibility and can work directly with employees.

Starbucks attorney Alan Model noted on Thursday that 45.5 per cent of baristas and shift supervisors in the Buffalo area worked at more than one store in the company’s 2021 fiscal year, which ended October 3. That helps the company meet shifting customer demand at its locations, Model said.

“It’s by design, not happenstance, that you can walk into any store and enjoy the same food and beverage in any store, and its partners can work at any store at any time,” Model told a hearing officer from the labour board.

But attorney for Workers United Ian Hayes said the labour board has already determined that individual store union elections are appropriate. Hayes says store managers handle operations in any given store.