BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Starbucks Workers United says some employees of the nation’s first unionized store, right here in Buffalo, have walked off the job.
According to the group, the workers left Wednesday morning due to “unsafe working conditions.”
“They have been pressured to work by Starbucks despite understaffing and health concerns,” Starbucks Workers United wrote. “We believe everyone deserves the right to feel safe at work! Partners will return when it’s safe to do so.”
It was just last month that the Elmwood Village coffee shop became the first of nearly 9,000 company-owned stores in the United States to unionize. Among the five employees who walked out of the morning shift, they say that although co-worker is infected and up to ten others are in isolation with Covid symptoms, they feel pressured to work unless they show symptoms. But Starbucks spokesman Reggie Borges says that, even without symptoms, they can isolate if they were in direct contact with a positive case.
The workers also say they were told not to enforce the mask mandate on customers. But Borges says that workers have the option of enforcing it, but are not encouraged to enforce the mask mandate because it tends to cause conflict with customers.
Borges submitted this link from the company about what Starbucks customers should know
These are among the bullet points in the company’s response:
Throughout the pandemic we have met and exceeded all CDC and expert guidelines for safety, and we’ve supported partners with vaccine pay, sick days and isolation-pay. Over and above that, all leaders are empowered to make whatever changes make sense for their neighborhood which includes shortening store hours or moving to 100% take-out only, which is the case in Buffalo.
As we move to meet federal guidelines, we are asking partners to self-disclose vaccination status and following CDC-approved isolation windows to 5 days from 10 days. Partners will continue to be fully paid for up to 2 self-isolation periods, but can speak to their manager about options if they exceed this.
In order to unionize, a store needs a majority vote, which means at least 50 percent, plus one. During recent votes, Hamburg’s Camp Road location voted against unionizing, while Cheektowaga’s Genesee Street election results are unclear due to contested votes.
A number of other local Starbucks stores have been taking steps to unionize, too. Those are located at Sheridan and Bailey in Amherst, Walden and Anderson in Cheektowaga, and Transit and French in Depew.
Outside of New York, Starbucks workers in Boston, Massachusetts are also looking to unionize after the results of the Elmwood Village vote.
Live on Instagram, a protest could be seen taking place outside the store. You can watch the video here.