Workers at Starbucks in Buffalo, New York, made history on Wednesday by voting for the first union in the coffee shop chain in the United States. Driven by the increased amount of work they receive due to requests for digital applications, the employees organized to create a union of workers and get more voice in the decision-making of the multinational. These elections also represent a milestone for unions in the United States, since the percentage of unionized workers is 6.3% in the private sector, and barely reaches 1.2% among workers in cafeterias and restaurants.
Amazon employees refuse to create their first union in the US
Three establishments voted whether or not they wanted to unionize. The first data released was that of the establishment of Elmwood Avenue and when it was announced that 19 workers voted “Yes” to the union and 8 “No”, shouts of joy and jumps flooded the room in which the workers who support the creation of a union were watching the vote.
The mood changed when the Hamburg local voted against (12-8). And the uncertainty was noted when the results of the third store in Cheektowaga were inconclusive, since seven ballots were withheld and until they are determined if they are valid, it cannot be decided who reached the majority in a vote, which at the moment The “Yes” to the union is winning by 15 votes compared to 9 votes against.
This is a major setback for Starbucks, which has more than 8,000 locations across the country, as the company’s management made every effort to thwart or delay unionization attempts.
The initiative does not end here. There are three other locations in Buffalo that have also asked to put the question to a vote, as well as a fourth cafeteria in the state of Arizona. It is not the first time that Starbucks employees try to create unions, in 2004 a campaign was started in New York City, but in that case Starbucks won.
The popularity of apps with the pandemic
The workers who started the movement seek to have more weight in the salaries and operations of the cafeterias, especially in relation to service by applications, in addition, they ask to be represented by Workers United, a subsidiary of the Service Employees International Union.
The pandemic has changed the way customers consume. Baristas in Buffalo and elsewhere in the United States complain that they cannot serve the high number of hourly orders that arrive in unexpected waves through the mobile app. The only option coffee shops have is to temporarily disable online ordering. This process requires the approval of an administrator and has the disadvantage that it usually involves overloading other nearby premises.
The Rust Belt
It is no coincidence that the pioneer cafeteria is in Buffalo, this area -which belongs to the Rust Belt (literally a rust belt, a term that refers to a historically industrial area because it is the headquarters of large companies such as General Motors or Ford Motor) – is one of the most unionized regions in the country.
This union tradition was noted in Buffalo during the vote, as Starbucks workers told the local media, where several customers instead of giving their names to pick up their coffee, chose to say that they called themselves “Yes to the union.” for employees to write that message on their Starbucks glasses.
Amazon, the defeat of the trade unionists
This partial victory gives hope to the country’s unionists, who did not get enough votes in April to create the first union in an Amazon warehouse in the southern US state of Alabama. In that vote, nearly 1,800 employees gave Amazon a landslide victory in the company’s closest battle to keep unions out of its warehouses.