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Local Starbucks workers allowed to take vote on unionizing

BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) — After months of pushing for the right to form a union, about 70 employees of Starbucks in western New York have won the right to decide whether to form the first Starbucks union in the nation.

“Now it’s not a matter of if we will have a union but WHEN we will have a union,” said Michelle Eisen, a Starbucks worker for 11 years, who is pleased that she and her fellow employees at the Elmwood, Genesee Street, and Walden Avenue stores have been given the okay by the National Labor Relations Board to begin voting on whether to unionize starting November 10.

Eisen said, during the height of the pandemic, workers felt they had no support or guidance from corporate and that’s what energized the push to unionize. “As opposed to just leaving. Because we could. I believe Taco Bell is hiring at a higher rate than what we’re getting paid right now, but I don’t want to go work at Taco Bell. I love where I work. I love who I work with. I love the community that I’m in and it seems like a lazy way to fix things, to say well you know what, I guess I’ll just leave.”

Starbucks employee Colin Cochran said that, over the past couple of months, Starbucks has brought new workers into the stores where current workers are attempting to organize. “This is obviously a way to bring in people who weren’t familiar with what conditions were like before the union campaign and an attempt by Starbucks to overturn our strong majority.”

National Labor Board: Buffalo Starbucks’ workers can form union by store

The workers believe it’s no coincidence that just this week, the corporation announced that it will be giving seniority raises of up to 10 percent to those who’ve been with the company for at least five years.

“We’re just excited that if this is what they give us when they’re scared of us forming a union, just imagine what we can get when we do have a union,” said Casey Moore, a Starbucks employee.

About 70 employees will have from November 10 to December 9 to submit a mail-in ballot, at which time the votes will be counted. If the majority of votes at each of the stores is in favor of unionizing, the bargaining for conditions in the workplace could begin soon after.

Patrick Ryan is a digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2020. See more of his work here.

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