Home WORLD AMERICA The first union at Starbucks in the United States is born

The first union at Starbucks in the United States is born


Cries of joy and hugs erupted just after the proclamation of the first results in the room where the campaign leaders had gathered.

It’s the culmination of a long road, responded Michelle Eisen, employed for more than 11 years in the café in question, avenue Elmwood. The battle was so hard, she says, with everything Starbucks threw in our faces.

Two stars from the left wing of the US Democratic Party were quick to congratulate employees on Twitter, Bernie Sanders hailing victory historical while Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accompanied her message with a raised fist.

A dream come true

The mood darkened for a while, as the votes of the employees of another café in the Buffalo area showed that they had voted in majority against the creation of a union. .

But smiles returned after the count in favor of the Yes in a third cafe, near the airport. As appeals have been filed by the union and the company on this ballot specifically, the final results have yet to be confirmed, but the union is confident.

It’s such a huge victory, a dream come true, added Lexi Rizzo, employee in this establishment.

The new union members are jumping for joy.

New union members jumped for joy when they heard the results of the vote on Thursday.

Photo: Associated Press / Joshua Bessex

Now, say new union members, Starbucks must come to the bargaining table.

The chain continues to believe that the working conditions it offers do not justify the creation of an intermediary between employees and management. Corn she respects the right to [ses] partners to form a union, said a representative of the company.

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Starbucks is now awaiting certification of the results next week before announcing the next step, she added.

A day as usual

The organizers of the campaign had filed a file to unionize under the banner of the organization Starbucks Workers United (SWU) at the end of August and the ballots had been sent to all employees on November 10.

The latter had until Wednesday to send them back to the US agency responsible for labor law (NLRB), which performed the count online on Thursday.

A Starbucks coffee shop seen from the outside.

Starbucks cafes in Buffalo were open as usual on Thursday.

Photo: Getty Images / ELEONORE SENS

Earlier today, no sign of the historic vote was visible at the facility on Elmwood Avenue. The ten or so waiters simply rushed to prepare customers’ orders.

They are part of my daily life and it is normal that they have a decent salary, remarked Steve Boyd, a 60-year-old lawyer, when he left the establishment. If it is necessary to create a union to have better working conditions, so I support them.

A favorable dynamic

Like the unionization attempt at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama in the spring, the Starbucks worker campaign has gained attention far beyond the streets of Buffalo, New York.

It reflects the discontent of employees determined to fight, at a time when the dynamics of the labor market are favorable to them, notes Cedric de Leon, professor of sociology at Massachusetts Amherst University.

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While many employers struggle to recruit, the bargaining power of employees is very high at the moment, he explains, referring to the many strikes that have punctuated the month of October or the millions of Americans who have chosen in recent months to resign.

When he joined Starbucks in May, Will Westlake, 24, congratulated himself on working for a group that regularly brandishes its progressive values ​​and generally offers better working conditions than other cafes.

But when I started I realized that was not necessarily the case, he tells AFP. He was particularly shocked to find that people who had worked for several years were earning little more than him, but also complained of intense work speeds.

Will other cafes follow suit?

The pro-unions were all the more motivated as Starbucks showed resistance.

A few weeks after the launch of the union mobilization, the group announced several measures such as raising its minimum wage or better consideration of seniority.

But he also, according to the organizers of the campaign, deployed the great means to try to convince the employees to vote no, in particular sending a battalion of executives in the region.

If the group is so worried about the arrival of a union, even in one cafe, it’s good because it could trigger a wave within the company, notes Cedric de Leon.

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