Starbucks union vote to kick off at 3 Buffalo, New York, locations

If successful, the stores would be the first of Starbucks’ 8,000 company-owned US locations to unionize

A rare union vote is expected to kick off this week at three Starbucks locations in Buffalo, New York. 

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The National Labor Relations Board, which approved the vote last month, will start mailing ballots on Wednesday evening and count the votes on Dec. 9. The three stores set to receive ballots are located on Elmwood Avenue in Elmwood Village, Genesee Street in Cheektowaga and Camp Road in Hamburg.

Starbucks filed an appeal late Monday to delay the vote while it waits for the full NLRB in Washington to review its case. But the vote may proceed even as that review is held. 

Richard Bensinger, left, who is advising unionization efforts, along with baristas Casey Moore, right, Brian Murray, second from left, and Jaz Brisack, second from right, discuss their efforts to unionize three Buffalo-area stores, inside the movemen (AP Newsroom)

Approximately 111 of the coffee chain's workers will decide on whether they would like to be represented by Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union. The NLRB rejected Starbucks’ request to hold one vote with 20 stores in the Buffalo area and ordered separate votes at the three stores.

If successful, the stores would be the first of Starbucks’ 8,000 company-owned U.S. locations to unionize. A majority vote at any one of the stores would create a bargaining unit for that location.

Another three Starbucks stores at Sheridan Drive & Bailey Avenue in Amherst, Walden Avenue & Anderson Road in Cheektowaga and a Depew location at Transit & French roads filed for union elections with the NLRB on Tuesday. However, those votes have not yet been scheduled. 

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In an NLRB filing this week, Workers United accused Starbucks of threats, intimidation and surveillance of workers. Starbucks told FOX Business the allegations are "categorically false."

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
SBUX STARBUCKS CORP. 113.36 +2.12 +1.91%

The company, which recently announced that all U.S. workers would earn at least $15 an hour and up to $23 per hour by next summer, touts benefits including paid parental leave, a 401(k) program and free college tuition through Arizona State University. 

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On Saturday, Starbucks closed locations in the Buffalo area to allow their employees to attend a voluntary meeting with Howard Schultz, the company’s largest individual shareholder and its former chief executive, at a local hotel.

"We’re not a perfect company," Schultz said. "Mistakes are made. We learn from them, and we try and fix them."

In an accompanying statement, Schultz said that "what the leadership team has done in Buffalo is what we have always done."

"We listen. We learn. We get better together," he said. "No partner has ever needed to have a representative seek to obtain things we all have as partners at Starbucks. And I am saddened and concerned to hear anyone thinks that is needed now."

Schultz emphasized in the statement that leaders "must learn from what is happening in Buffalo" and that he has already seen "changes, commitments and engagement happening." 

"The leadership team and I will continue these forums around the country, creating more opportunities to learn from one another and improve," he added. "We must remember to earn success and trust each day, taking accountability and correcting when there are missteps."

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The vote comes as Amazon warehouse workers in New York have kicked off a new unionization effort after a failed attempt in Bessemar, Alabama, earlier this year.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
AMZN AMAZON.COM, INC. 3,427.37 +37.58 +1.11%
DE DEERE & CO. 354.51 +5.27 +1.51%
K KELLOGG CO. 63.58 +0.58 +0.92%

Meanwhile, thousands of union workers with John Deere and Kellogg remain on strike for better pay and benefits.

Fox Business' Ken Martin and the Associated Press contributed to this report