BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Starbucks employees at the Elmwood Village location unionized in a historic vote Thursday, becoming the first of nearly 9,000 company-owned stores in America to do so.

The National Labor Relations Board revealed the results of the mail-in vote over Zoom Thursday for three Buffalo-area stores that sought to unionize. The Camp Road Location in Hamburg appears on the brink of unionizing as well, though there are contested votes that will need to be resolved in the coming days or weeks. The union drive was defeated at Camp Road location in Hamburg.

Votes by store

  • Elmwood votes: Yes 19, No 8. Elmwood Village is the first Starbucks in America to unionize. No votes were challenged.
  • Camp Road/Hamburg votes: No 12, Yes 8, with 2 unresolved challenges. Hamburg will NOT unionize. … Starbucks challenged one ballot, saying the person is no longer employed. A second ballot was rendered void by the NLRB because it was not returned correctly or signed. A third ballot was challenged by the union because the envelope was torn on arrival. A fourth ballot was challenged by the union because they claim the person was working as a manager, and parties agreed the voter was ineligible.
  • Genesee Street/Cheektowaga votes: The result is unclear after vote-counting for the Cheektowaga location was contested. There were 15 Yes votes, 9 No votes and 7 contested votes. … This means the vote will not be settled today because there were not a majority yes votes, though Starbucks would need six of the seven contested votes to turn in its favor to defeat the union. The vote will have to be resolved during a post-election proceeding with the NLRB.
  • The unions needed a majority of votes to be successful — 50% plus one.

The vote was conducted by mail and results were counted Thursday afternoon via Zoom. The National Labor Relations Board mailed ballots to workers at three local stores on Nov. 10 and the ballots needed to be received by Wednesday.

Three other local Starbucks stores — Sheridan Drive and Bailey Avenue in Amherst, Walden Avenue and Anderson Road in Cheektowaga, and a Depew location at Transit and French roads — are taking steps to unionize but have not yet held a vote.

Starbucks sought to have the market vote en masse, but that challenge was not granted and stores were allowed to vote individually.

“Today is the start of a new era for organized labor, and it began right here in Buffalo,” said Sen. Sean Ryan. “I applaud Starbucks Workers United and the grassroots, worker-led effort to fight for better pay and workplace conditions.”

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who met with the group earlier this month, also congratulated them online.

The Starbucks locations seeking unionization are shown in a map below.

The Starbucks locations are the second local coffee chain to seek unionization, following Spot Coffee’s unionization vote in 2019.

Starbucks was represented on the call by attorneys Alan Model and Erik Hult. The workers were represented by Ian Hayes.

Starbucks released the following statement on the votes:

Today we saw a split vote in two stores in Buffalo with a third vote outcome pending.

Every partner matters.  It’s how we built the company.  And how we will continue to run the company. We will continue to focus on the best Starbucks experience we can deliver for each other and our customers.  

We are grateful for each partner who exercised their right to vote, and as we move forward, we will continue to focus on working to exceed the expectations of all our partners and our customers. 

We want to protect partner flexibility and transferability across all stores in a market or a district because we know that’s important to partners, which is why we maintain our belief that every partner in a district or market should have the opportunity to vote on such an important decision . 

Independent of the outcome of these elections, we respect the process, and we will continue to stay true to our Mission and Values. 

Latest in Starbucks Unionization Efforts

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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