Starbucks workers’ union drive, spreading across the U.S., has reached the company’s Seattle home

February 21, 2022, 10:23 AM UTC

Workers at a Starbucks Corp. store in Seattle will hold a unionization vote, giving the labor group that recently won landmark New York elections a chance to expand its new foothold to the coffee giant’s hometown.

Employees will be mailed ballots Feb. 25, the National Labor Relations Board’s Seattle regional director ordered Friday, joining counterparts in New York and Arizona in rejecting the company’s arguments that store-by-store unionization votes are inappropriate. 

In New York and Arizona, like Seattle, the company argued that any vote should include the combined workforce of more stores, meaning the union would need to secure a larger number of votes to prevail. 

But labor board officials found there wasn’t sufficient reason to depart from the agency’s usual presumption that a single workplace’s employees constitute a sufficiently large group to hold a vote.

The union, Workers United, is now petitioning to represent workers at around 100 locations across the U.S., meaning the company could face a wave of union elections in the coming months. Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, won in two of the three Starbucks elections held in New York’s Buffalo region late last year. 

Employees at three more New York stores and one in Mesa, Arizona, have also been voting in recent weeks on whether to unionize. Starbucks has asked the labor board to overturn the regional orders allowing those elections, and the ballots in Arizona, which were slated to be counted last week, are instead sitting uncounted until NLRB members in Washington issue a response to the company’s appeal.

The company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday. 

Starbucks’ North America president, Rossann Williams, told employees in a December letter that “we do not want a union between us as partners,” but that the company respects the legal process and would bargain in good faith at the first store where the union won. 

Workers United has filed still-pending labor board complaints accusing the company of illegal anti-union tactics, including retaliatory firings of seven activist employees at a Memphis store. The company has said it follows labor law and terminated those employees because they violated safety rules.

“We are organizing a union because we believe the best way to uphold our end of the partnership is by creating a voice for ourselves so that we can work alongside one another as true partners,” employees at the Seattle store wrote to Starbucks’ CEO in December. 

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