Starbucks Union Wins Vote at Second Store, Labor Board Rules
(Bloomberg) -- The union that won a landmark victory last month at a Starbucks Corp. restaurant has also prevailed at a second New York store, expanding a new labor foothold that has already inspired copycat efforts across the country.
In a Monday order, an acting regional director for the National Labor Relations Board ruled against the inclusion of seven unopened ballots whose eligibility had been contested, leaving the union Workers United victorious by a vote of 15 to 9.
Starbucks said Monday that it is exploring its options for appealing the ruling. The company has two weeks to request that NLRB members in Washington review the regional official’s Monday ruling.
“From the very beginning we’ve been clear that we’re better together as partners without a union between us at Starbucks, and that conviction hasn’t changed,” company spokesperson Reggie Borges said Monday. In a letter to employees last month, North America President Rossann Williams reiterated that the company doesn’t want a union at its stores, but said “we respect the legal process” and “will bargain in good faith” at the New York store where the union won in December.
The union came up short in the election at a third New York store last month, where workers voted 12-8 against Workers United, but the group has petitioned the labor board to overturn that result over alleged misconduct.
Employees at an Arizona restaurant are also slated to vote this month on joining Workers United, which in recent weeks has also petitioned the labor board for elections in cities including Boston, Chicago, Knoxville, Tennessee, and the company’s hometown of Seattle. Starbucks employees also announced union campaigns with Workers United on Jan. 8 in Oregon and on Monday in Ohio.
“This generation of workers is standing up to anti-union bullying,” Richard Bensinger, the strategist spearheading the campaign for the union, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, said Monday following the ruling. “Partners all around the nation are now responding.”
Unless the order is overturned, Starbucks will be legally required to collectively bargain “in good faith” with the second unionized store, as it has said it will do at the first. But federal law does not force companies to agree to major concessions sought by employees, and a 2009 study found that in the majority of cases, workers haven’t yet reached a contract one year after voting to unionize.
Workers United has said that its primary focus is winning a collective bargaining agreement in New York that could inspire workers across the country, and that it expects support and attention from around the world will help workers prevail in that next stage of their campaign.
While the attention-grabbing union activism of recent months has mostly taken place at already-unionized companies, organizers’ new headway at a historically non-union firm as high-profile as Starbucks could help inspire more efforts elsewhere, said former NLRB Chair William Gould.
“This indicates that some unions are willing to make an effort against major anti-union companies, a major departure from the days of union lethargy,” Gould, an emeritus professor at Stanford Law School, said via email. “However, the question of whether this will move the needle for unions is still unanswered.”
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