- Records from the National Labor Relations Board show Workers United has recently petitioned for elections at six Starbucks stores in Boston; Chicago; Seattle; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Louisville, Colorado. This comes after the Dec. 9 election at three Buffalo, New York-area Starbucks shops.
- A total of 13 Starbucks stores in seven states have now filed for NLRB supervised elections, with three that already held elections.
- The new filings indicate that Workers United's victory in Buffalo, New York, and continued labor market conditions have given the union drive fresh momentum at the coffee giant.
Workers United may be trying to spread Starbucks' management thin, by forcing the company to commit support managers and legal resources to cities throughout the country rather than concentrating them in one market. The new filings follow what the union claimed was an unprecedented anti-union campaign in the Buffalo market, where the coffee chain reportedly brought around 50 to 75 support managers into a market with 20 stores.
In Buffalo, Workers United won representation at one store, lost at a second and are litigating the outcome at a third store where the union has a lead in counted ballots.
The Boston-area stores were the first to file after the Buffalo election, with one in Boston and another in Brookline petitioning for elections on Dec. 13. Workers at a single store filed in Seattle on Dec. 20. Organizers at one Starbucks in Kentucky petitioned for an election on Dec. 27, while workers at a store in Colorado and a store in Chicago announced their intent to unionize in letters to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson on Dec. 30.
Rossann Williams, the president of Starbucks North America, re-emphasized the company's opposition to the union drive in a letter to partners on Dec. 20.
"From the beginning, we've been clear in our belief that we do not want a union between us as partners, and that conviction has not changed. However, we have also said that we respect the legal process," Williams wrote.
In an interview with Restaurant Dive before the Buffalo Starbucks election results, Kimberly Cook, extension faculty at the Worker Institute at Cornell University's school of Industrial and Labor Relations, said it was likely that union drives would spread, albeit slowly, in the fast food industry.
"I would suspect there'll be more Starbucks workers throughout the country who want to organize here and there," Cook said. "Some union is just going to have to decide, do they want to take this on in a big way and in a long-term way."
Cook also said the endurance of Fight for $15, a political organizing campaign directed by Service Employees International Union, the parent union of Workers United, and other efforts at organizing fast food workers reflect a growing organization on the shop floor in the QSR segment.
"[In] fast food specifically, you'd be foolish to not see that there's obviously something happening there," Cook said. "It's pretty broad, and it's long lasting."
Gabriel Winant, a professor of history at the University of Chicago specializing in American labor, told Restaurant Dive before the Buffalo election that he expected the Starbucks union drive to grow over the first half of 2022, though he cautioned the growth of labor organizing in fast food was likely to be constrained by the same structural conditions that have kept unions out of the industry for decades.
"We should expect ... some kind of reverberation sort of over a period of a few months or something like that, I would guess," Winant said. "I don't think that is going to set off [an] explosion of hundreds and hundreds of fast food places [unionizing]."
Cook argued economic and political changes in recent years have driven younger workers towards a more militant stance.
"Between COVID and the Black Lives Matter movement and the growing politicization, I think, ...of a younger generation of workers is creating almost like these movement conditions in this country that we probably haven't seen since the '60s," Cook said.