BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — It’s been one year since the Starbucks locations on both Elmwood Avenue and Genesee Street voted to unionize. Now, it has sparked a national movement.

Members of Starbucks Workers United say they are determined to work out a fair union deal for employees across the country. They hope Buffalo’s labor roots can continued to fuel this national trend.

To the chant of ‘No contract. No coffee.’, Starbucks Workers United members stood in solidarity with other labor groups from across Western New York in Niagara Square asking Starbucks to come to the bargaining table.

“A year ago we had virtually nothing. It’s now grown to 7,000 employees in the Starbucks corporation, more than 260 stores in 36 states,” Congressman Brian Higgins said at the rally.

While celebrating its first anniversary, the union said it still doesn’t have a labor agreement with the corporation. They say the company is in hot water for its lackluster negotiations.

“I don’t think a year ago I thought that we’d be standing here still trying to get that first contract. I’m waiting for Starbucks to get it together and to figure out that this is the next step. It’s the right step,” Michelle Eisen, organizing member of Starbucks Workers United, said.

Workers are hoping for pro-union policies, better health care, and improved safety standards. Congressman Higgins is calling on Starbucks to reach a deal.

“Respond to what it is they’re saying. And if you really hold yourself out to be a socially conscious corporation, them demonstrate it by allowing them to organize and bargain collectively,” Congressman Higgins added.

Jazz Brisack was a barista at the Elmwood Avenue location until she says she was forced out. She’s since filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board, but she wants to get back to work at Starbucks.

“I still believe that we can make Starbucks the company that it says it is. I don’t think that we should define it by its worst moments, but by what it will be once it recognizes the union and actually works with partners,” Brisack said.

Union workers still have hope that the company can brew up a new blend for them: a fair deal.

“They’ve always set the standard in the service industry. They’ve always been known as the company that was better, so let’s see some of that,” Eisen concluded.

Starbucks Workers United has filed dozens of complaints with the National Labor Relations Board. Many are pending, but the board has confirmed allegations of employee intimidation.

News 4 heard back from Starbucks on Saturday. They said the following:

  • We respect our partners’ right to engage in lawful protest activity.
  • Our focus remains on all partners and our commitment to continue to work together, side-by-side, to make Starbucks a company that works for everyone. 
  • With our partners in mind, we will continue to show up and be ready to bargain in good faith and have urged Workers United to do the same. 

Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.