Starbucks Corp. employees voted for unionization at the first of three New York restaurants where ballots are being counted Thursday afternoon.
The vote was 19-8. If formally certified by the National Labor Relations Board, the agency conducting the elections, it would establish a union foothold among the coffee chain’s thousands of corporate-run U.S. locations.
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The tallying of votes from the trio of sites follows a four-week mail-in voting period. Workers at those three Buffalo-region locations petitioned in August to join the Service Employees International Union affiliate Workers United, which has more recently filed for additional elections at three more New York sites and another in Arizona.
After ballots are tallied at each store, both sides will have the chance to submit allegations of misconduct and offer arguments against officially certifying the results.
An acting regional labor board director ruled in October that workers could vote store-by-store at the first three locations, meaning that Starbucks would be required to collectively bargain if a majority of voters at any one of those sites supported unionization.
A bipartisan group of NLRB members issued an order on Dec. 7 rejecting an appeal by Starbucks, which has argued that any election should instead include at least the combined workforce of its 20 stores in the region. Such a measure would mean the union would only prevail if it secured the majority of votes among a much larger group.
In a letter to employees, Starbucks Chief Executive Officer Kevin Johnson wrote that “we respect the process that is underway and, independent of any outcome in these elections, we will continue to stay true to our mission and values.”
In a labor board complaint filed last month, the union alleged that Starbucks management has responded to organizing efforts “by engaging in a campaign of threats, intimidation, surveillance” and other illegal activity. Starbucks has said that it strictly complies with labor laws.