BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A week before votes are due in unprecedented unionization efforts at local Starbucks stores, the group representing the workers says it is “completely confident” it will have the votes to become the first unionized Starbucks in the country.
“In spite of everything the corporation has done over the last three months to try and destroy this union campaign,” claimed Michelle Eisen, a member of Starbucks Workers United’s organizing committee, “we are still completely confident that come next Thursday, we will have the first unionized Starbucks out of almost 9,000 in the United States.”
The National Labor Relations Board mailed ballots to workers at three local stores — Elmwood Avenue in the Elmwood Village, Genesee Street in Cheektowaga by the airport, and Camp Road in Hamburg — on Nov. 10. The ballots need to be received by the NLRB by next Wednesday, Dec. 8. Votes will be counted virtually at 1 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9.
Starbucks maintains its workers, which it calls partners, don’t need a union because of the company’s success working directly together with employees without involving a third party.
Eisen said support from both the Buffalo community and elected officials has been critical for the workers. The group has met with U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Bernie Sanders in recent weeks.
“The city has really rallied behind us, our community has rallied behind us, family and friends,” Eisen said. “The entire country is excited to see this play out and is rooting us on. It seems the only people who are not excited about unionized Starbucks is Starbucks itself, which is a little disappointing. It’s definitely contrary to what Starbucks professes they are as a company. And we’re hoping that when we win next Thursday they’re going to do an about-face, and realize this is where we are, this is the future of our industry. We’re excited to bring them to the bargaining table and get the first contract — good contract — in Starbucks history.”
Gillibrand and Sanders both tweeted their support for the union.
“What we really need from them is to put the pressure on Starbucks once we win to get to the bargaining table as quickly as possible and to allow us to negotiate a fair contract.”
Three other local Starbucks stores are also seeking to unionize, though they are not as far along in the process. Those stores are Sheridan Drive & Bailey Avenue in Amherst, Walden Avenue & Anderson Road in Cheektowaga and a Depew location at Transit & French roads.
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Nick Veronica is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a Digital Executive Producer in 2021. He previously worked at NBC Sports and The Buffalo News. You can follow Nick on Facebook and Twitter and find more of his work here.