Starbucks Workers in Buffalo Vote to Create First-Ever Union

Workers from one of the three cafes in Buffalo, New York voted to unionize.

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By Entrepreneur Staff • Dec 12, 2021 Originally published Dec 12, 2021

In a vote won by a 19-8 margin, for the first time, a union will represent US Starbucks workers. Starbucks Workers United will represent approximately 100 employees who work in three Buffalo, New York locations.

Nationwide, Starbucks has 235,000 employees in close to 9,000 stores. This vote is the first time employees have organized in the company's history. Employees in Buffalo told CNN their goals include having input in how the stores and run and "to win some better wages for longtime coworkers, who often make only slightly more than new hires."

Related: Starbucks, Amazon Go Open Store in New York

Prior to this vote, when detailing risks to the company in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the chain explained how unionizing could have significant adverse effects on the business. "If a significant portion of our employees were to become unionized, our labor costs could increase and our business could be negatively affected by other requirements and expectations that could increase our costs, change our employee culture, decrease our flexibility and disrupt our business," they wrote.

Following the Buffalo vote, Rossann Williams, Starbucks' executive vice president for North America, wrote a note to employees stating that this vote will not cause any immediate changes in company operations. "Starbucks is one of the most respected and admired companies in the world, built by partners in service of partners, customers and neighborhoods all across the country," she wrote. "We want every partner to love working at Starbucks. We will keep finding new and better ways to continue leading on wages and benefits, improve our listening and active partnership, and keep building a company that matters."

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson sent a letter to employees explaining that the company is working to address employees' concerns, and listed benefits employees receive, including healthcare, company equity, parental and sick leave. "We will work each day to exceed the expectations of our partners as you, in turn, create that great Starbucks Experience for our customers," he wrote, adding: "Second, we will always be transparent and authentic – even when we need to have tough conversations."

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