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Starbucks workers agree to union in NY

BUFFALO, NEW YORK (AP) – Starbucks workers at a store in Buffalo, New York, voted to unionise on Thursday, the latest sign that the labour movement is stirring after decades of decline.

The National Labour Relations Board said Thursday that workers voted 19-8 in favour of a union at the Elmwood Avenue location, one of three stores in Buffalo where elections were being held.

A second store rejected the union in a vote of 12-8, but the union said it might challenge that result because it wasn’t confident all of the eligible votes had been counted. The results of a third store could not be determined because both sides challenged seven separate votes.

Starbucks and Workers United, the union vying to represent the workers, have five business days to submit their objections to the election results, the labour board said. If objections are filed, there could be a series of hearings and appeals that delay certification of the votes. If no objections are filed, the results could be certified as early as December 16.

If the labour board certifies the results and one or more of the stores unionises, they would be the first Starbucks-owned stores in the United States (US) to be represented by a union since the 1980s, when the United Food and Commercial Workers union represented workers at six stores in the Seattle area for several years. The company has actively fought unionization at its stores for decades, saying its stores function best when it works directly with employees.

The election comes at a time of heightened labour unrest in the US Striking cereal workers at Kellogg Co rejected a new contract offer earlier this week.

Thousands of workers were on strike at Deere & Co earlier this fall. And the US labour board recently approved a redo of a union vote at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama after finding the company pressured workers to vote against the union.

Labour shortages are giving workers a rare upper hand in wage negotiations. And director of the Higgins Labour Programme at the University of Notre Dame Dan Graff said the pandemic gave many workers the time and space to rethink what they want from their jobs.

A Starbucks outlet in southeast Denver. PHOTO: AP