By CAROLYN THOMPSON
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Employees at three more Starbucks stores in suburban Buffalo have voted to form unions, a count of ballots revealed Wednesday, bringing to six the number of unionized Starbucks shops and further advancing organizing efforts underway in at least two dozen states.
Workers at stores in Cheektowaga, Amherst and Depew voted by narrow margins in favor of unionizing, according to the National Labor Relations Board’s tally. The count was 8-7 in Cheektowaga, 15-12 in Amherst and 15-12 in Depew.
Union supporters said the close results likely reflected what they described as efforts by Starbucks to intimidate workers as they weighed their choice, including flooding stores with out-of-town managers.
“Starbucks has not made this about whether or not you want to vote for a union, they’ve made it about whether you want to keep your job, whether you want to keep your hours, whether or not you want to be bullied at work,” Casey Moore, one of the leaders of the efforts, said after the vote.
Starbucks has denied using intimidation tactics but has fought unionization efforts, saying its more than 8,000 company-owned U.S. stores function best when Starbucks works directly with employees, which the company calls “partners.”
“As we have said throughout, we will respect the process and will bargain in good faith guided by our principles,” Starbucks said in a statement acknowledging Wednesday’s results.
The vote count was delayed for two weeks after Starbucks filed a request for review with the labor board. The Seattle-based coffee giant argued that its Buffalo-area stores should vote as a group on the issue of unionization, rather than individually, to avoid labor instability across stores that may share employees. The NLRB on Monday ruled against the request, saying it saw no issues.
This was the second round of union votes involving Starbucks stores in Buffalo, where the spreading efforts to unionize first took hold. Two stores voted in favor of unionizing in December. A suburban Phoenix location last month became the first store outside New York to organize.
They are the first Starbucks-owned stores in the U.S. to be represented by a union since the 1980s when the United Food and Commercial Workers union represented workers at six stores in the Seattle area for several years.
Employees who favor unionizing say they want more input, through collective bargaining, on pay, working conditions and store operations.
Workers at more than 100 stores in 26 states have now petitioned the NLRB to hold their own union elections, according to Workers United, the union that’s organizing the effort.
“It’s not slowing down. Every time we have a a win … that’s continuing to build that momentum and that excitement and that strength,” organizer Michelle Eisen said.
Union membership levels are rising for U.S. workers between 25 and 34 years old, even as they decline among other age groups, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.