Bernie Sanders Just Weighed In On Starbucks' Union Controversy

For the first time in the company's 50-year history, Starbucks workers may finally be getting a union. Starbucks employees across three locations in Buffalo, New York, who are hoping to achieve greater representation in regards to store operations and wages, have been organizing in an effort to form Starbucks Workers United. They would be the first stores of 8,000 Starbucks locations to ever unionize, according to PBS. On Thursday, December 2, representatives asked the National Labor Relations Board to hold union votes for around 111 Starbucks employees across the three stores who are eligible to cast their vote for or against unionization.

The company has been pushing back against the unionization efforts, calling the idea "heartbreaking" and requesting employees vote no "not because we're opposed to unions but because we believe we will best enhance our partnership and advance the operational changes together in a direct relationship," according to a "public letter" by Rossann Williams, president of North America operations at Starbucks (via Huffpost). Workers are saying the company has also been personally pressuring them to vote against the union. However, those who support the effort have at least one notable ally in their fight to organize: Bernie Sanders.

The Vermont Senator voiced his support for the unionization effort

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has been very vocal online in his support for the Buffalo Starbucks workers' unionization efforts. In a tweet from November 30, he wrote "I'm proud to stand with @SBWorkersUnited in their fight for decent wages and decent working conditions. Starbucks is raking in record profits in 2021. They are not a struggling company. So why are they working so hard to defeat workers' efforts to form a union?"

He has continued to post supportive messages on the social media platform, including vocalizing his belief that a "company with record-breaking profits...can absolutely afford to negotiate with its workers in good faith" (via News 10). On December 5, Sanders even announced on Twitter that he would be holding a town hall livestream with Buffalo Starbucks workers the following day. "Young workers are struggling with low wages, high rents, student debt, lack of health care, etc. Some of them are fighting back," he wrote. The union voting ballots must be submitted by December 8, and the National Labor Relations Board is expected to tally the ballots on December 9, according to Buffalo News. After the votes are tallied, the results will be decided on a store-by-store basis.