A day before the ballots were due to go to workers at three Starbucks in the Buffalo area for a vote on unionization, workers at three other nearby stores filed petitions Tuesday with federal regulators calling for elections as well.
The upcoming vote is important because none of the nearly 9,000 Starbucks-owned stores in the United States are unionized.
On Monday, Starbucks filed a motion to delay sending ballots as it appeals a ruling by a regional National Labor Relations Board official who instituted separate votes in the three locations where workers initially ran for elections. reported. The company wants all about 20 stores in Buffalo to vote in one election, an approach that typically favors employers.
The first three stores filed for union elections in late August, and Starbucks sent executives and senior corporate officials to the area from out of state in the weeks that followed, in what it said was an effort to resolve operational issues.
The union has complained that out-of-town officials are unlawfully intimidating and controlling workers and last week filed a lawsuit for unfair labor practices. The union also states that Starbucks has transferred or hired a number of additional employees at two of its three stores to weaken union support.
So-called packing of a workplace ahead of a union election is illegal if bringing in new employees does not serve a legitimate business purpose and if the employer has reason to believe that the new employees will oppose a union. Starbucks has said the additional employees are needed to make up for the staff shortage.
The Starbucks workers who support unions want to join Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union. The union says there are 31 to 41 eligible workers at each of the three locations filing the new petitions. It aims for elections for each of them on November 30.
Starbucks has maintained that individual stores should not hold separate elections because its employees can work in multiple locations and because it largely operates as a group of stores in one area rather than at the store level.
“We believe all of our partners in this Buffalo market deserve the right to vote,” Reggie Borges, a company spokesperson, said Tuesday. “Today’s announcement that partners in three additional Buffalo stores are signing up to vote underscores our view that partners across the market must have a voice in this important decision.”