Arizona Starbucks to attempt vote on union for 2nd time

Pro-union leaders say Starbucks workers deserve the right to collectively bargain on issues like benefits, seniority pay and pandemic safety protocols

PHOENIX — Employees at a Starbucks in suburban Phoenix are expected to move forward Friday with a vote on whether to unionize, amplifying the growing interest in organizing among the coffee chain's workers.

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Pro-union leaders say Starbucks workers deserve the right to collectively bargain on issues like benefits, seniority pay and pandemic safety protocols.

Originally scheduled for last week in Mesa, Arizona, the election was postponed after Starbucks filed a request for a review with the Washington, D.C.-based National Labor Relations Board.

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The Seattle-based coffee giant argued that a single store should not be allowed to hold a vote. Instead, a vote should include all the locations in that store's assigned district.

The labor board denied the request, saying it did not see any issues.

Michelle Eisen, a barista at the Buffalo, NY, Elmwood Starbucks location, the first Starbuck location to unionize, helps out the local Starbucks Workers United, employees of a local Starbucks, as they gather at a local union hall to cast votes to uni (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin / AP Images)

If approved, the Starbucks in Mesa would be the first to unionize outside of Buffalo, New York, where organizing efforts first took off.

Over 65 stores in 20 states have filed petitions with the labor board to hold union elections since two in Buffalo unionized in the last few months, according to labor union Workers United.

Starbucks officials have spoken against unionizing, asserting the company functions best when it can work directly with its employees. Some workers have disputed that claim.

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Efforts to form unions have led to tense conflict. Earlier this month, seven Starbucks workers were fired after spearheading a union campaign in Memphis, Tennessee. The company said they violated policy by reopening a store after closing time, inviting non-employees inside and doing TV interviews from there.

Michelle Eisen, a barista at the Buffalo, NY, Elmwood Starbucks location, the first Starbuck location to unionize, announces to the local Starbucks Workers United, employees of a local Starbucks, who were gathered at a local union hall to cast votes (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin / AP Images)

Employees countered that Starbucks was retaliating and said they planned to file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

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After decades of decline, unions have become a popular strategy. Multiple polls show union approval is high — and growing — among younger workers. U.S. union membership levels are ticking upward for workers between 25 and 34, even as they decline among other age groups, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.