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Friday, December 01, 2023
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‘We have made history in Buffalo tonight’

Starbucks store on Elmwood Avenue votes in favor of forming a union, Genesee Street location sees contested result

<p>Employees at the Starbucks on Elmwood Avenue voted 19-8 in favor of forming a union last Thursday, making that location the first Starbucks store in the country to unionize.&nbsp;</p>

Employees at the Starbucks on Elmwood Avenue voted 19-8 in favor of forming a union last Thursday, making that location the first Starbucks store in the country to unionize. 

Baristas and shift supervisors at the Starbucks on Elmwood Avenue voted 19-8 in favor of forming a union, making that location the first Starbucks store in the country to unionize on Thursday. 

“We have made history in Buffalo tonight,” Gianna Reeve, a junior psychology major, Starbucks employee and member of the union’s organizing committee, told The Spectrum. “Everyone on [the] organizing committee is excited and ready to sit down at the bargaining table with Starbucks. I’m ready to devote any spare time I have to fighting for the best contract the service industry has yet to see.”

The store on Camp Road in Hamburg, which had also filed for a vote, rejected unionization by a margin of 12-8, according to The Buffalo News

“We are currently exploring our legal options for a re-election,” Reeve, who works at the Camp Road location, said. “At the end of the day, win or lose at Camp Road, we did the impossible in Buffalo.”

A vote at a third store, located on Genesee Street in Cheektowaga, reached an inconclusive result, with 15 votes in favor of a union, 9 against and 7 votes being challenged. Workers United, the union seeking to represent Starbucks employees, issued six of the seven challenges, arguing some of the employees who voted weren’t regular employees at that store. The objections will likely result in a legal battle according to NPR

“The vote outcomes will not change our shared purpose or how we will show up for each other,” Rossann Williams, executive vice president and president of Starbucks North America, said in a statement. “We want to protect partner flexibility, transferability and benefits across all stores in a market or a district because we know that’s important to partners. This is why we strongly believe that every partner in a district or market should have the opportunity to vote on such an important decision.”

Williams’ comments came after regional executives visited Buffalo to hold “listening sessions,” chat with workers on the floor and publicly asked workers to vote against the union. 

But these votes likely won’t be the last for Starbucks. Three more Buffalo-area stores — located on Transit Road in Depew, Sheridan Drive in Amherst and Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga — and one store in Mesa, AZ had filed unionization petitions with the National Labor Relations Board before Thursday’s vote, according to Bloomberg

“I can say we’re extremely pleased with how the votes went overall despite the slight hiccups with the last two stores, and it’s made me extremely excited for our turn to vote,” Ash Goldenberg, a freshman public health major who works at one of the Buffalo-area Starbucks store that filed for an upcoming vote, said. 

Once the NLRB certifies the election results, Starbucks will be legally obligated to enter into good-faith negotiations with Workers United. That process could take upward of a year, but the successful union drive could still inspire more stores to file, according to The Buffalo News

“It’s a victory for everyone, and most partners are celebrating,” Vianca Colon-Barreto, an Erie Community College student and barista at the Starbucks in The Commons, said. “I’m still on a leave of absence, so I’m not sure what my store thinks of this news or if their stances [on a union] have changed. I haven’t heard anything that would suggest otherwise, but I’m sure partners at UB Commons are supportive of the decisions that other stores have come to.”

Colon-Barreto had previously stated that while possible under the current circumstances, she thought a union vote at her store was unlikely. 

Grant Ashley is a senior news/features editor and can be reached at 



Grant Ashley is the editor in chief of The Spectrum. He's also reported for WBFO, WIVB and The Buffalo News. He enjoys taking long bike rides, baking with his parents’ ingredients and recreating Bob Ross paintings in crayon. He can be found on the platform formerly known as Twitter at @Grantrashley. 



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