Starbucks Corp. employees are now petitioning to unionise at about 50 stores across the US, rapidly expanding the reach of a campaign that last month established the sole unionised foothold among the chain’s thousands of corporate-run US sites.
On Monday, the Workers United union said it is filing 15 unionisation petitions with the National Labor Relations Board, which follow dozens of others submitted in the weeks since the group’s landmark victory in a Buffalo, New York, election. Collective bargaining talks at that store began Monday, the union said.
Starbucks didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry. The company’s North America president, Rossann Williams, reiterated in a December letter to employees that “we do not want a union between us as partners”, but that the company respects the legal process and will bargain in good faith at the first New York store where the union prevailed.
Simultaneous unionisation pushes at 50 to 100 stores would be harder for the coffee giant to effectively campaign against, the University of California at Santa Barbara historian Nelson Lichtenstein said last month. “When and if that happens, it will be much more difficult for Starbucks and its anti-union law firms to scurry about the country suppressing these insurrections,” Lichtenstein said in an email.
The union announced filings Monday in New York, Kansas, California, Missouri, Oregon and Washington state.
If the labour board affirms that the union has signed up majorities at each store and schedules a flurry of votes across the country over the coming months, they will offer a crucial test of the fledgling union’s staying power. So will the contract talks in Buffalo. Under US labour law, management is required to hold contract talks “in good faith” once workers vote to unionise, but there’s no obligation to make major concessions on workers’ demands. In most cases, workers haven’t yet reached a collective bargaining agreement a year after voting to unionise, according to a 2009 study.
Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, has so far prevailed at two of the three Starbucks sites to hold recent unionisation votes, all in New York state. Employees have been voting this month at one of the company’s Arizona locations, but the company has filed an appeal to prevent the counting of those ballots, arguing as it has elsewhere that store-by-store elections are inappropriate. Employees are also scheduled to vote next month at three more New York Starbucks sites.
Starbucks shares were little changed at $97.29 in New York trading at 11:31 am. The stock rose 9.3 percent last year, short of the 27 percent rise of the S&P 500 index.