Despite the very small number of workers involved, the Starbucks store in Buffalo, NY made history Dec. 9 when it became the first one in the Starbucks chain to vote to unionize. The workers voted 19-8 to be represented by Workers United in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board.
Starbucks, the biggest coffee seller in the world, operates nearly 10,000 stores in the United States. It has waged a relentless war on union organizing attempts in Buffalo, closing some stores, and packing the others with new workers who, they hoped, would outvote the pro-union employees there. To counter the union organizing drive they sent in managers and executives to intimidate workers who have been complaining for years about the understaffing, chaotic conditions, restrictions on sick days, low pay and erratic hours.
Although the number of workers is small, the election is significant because it could mark a significant boost in the unionization of other Starbucks stores and among restaurant workers who are the least unionized workers in the country.