What We Know So Far About Starbucks' Union Vote

Another company looks poised — if unhappily so — to have unionized employees on its payroll soon. Starbucks, the Seattle-based coffee giant, is none too pleased that 80 or so employees from three locations in the Buffalo, New York area are voting on whether to unionize, according to NPR. If the vote passes, the workers will join Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, which in total has more than 1.9 million members. So, in other words, they know what they're doing.

If the vote passes, this would mark the first successful attempt to unionize by Starbucks employees. Today is the last day to file a vote. Results should be posted on Thursday, December 9. Only yesterday, Starbucks lost its appeal with the National Labor Relations Board to block the vote, per the Wall Street Journal. Talk about a "grande" setback for a truly "trenta" corporation!

So why all the discord in Starbucks-land? As is usually the case, the workers allege that they're not getting what they need to work happily and well.

Why do Starbucks workers want to unionize?

Starbucks workers want to unionize for the same basic reasons that unions form in other companies. Simply put, they want better wages, staffing, and training opportunities, per NPR. They also want to mandate regular, reliable pay increases for employees who really go the distance with the company.

For once, the labor-minded employees seem to have the upper hand, thanks to unprecedented staffing shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. "...for once we weren't disposable as food service employees anymore," staffer Lexi Rizzo told NPR.

Workers in many other locations around the country are also trying to unionize, although none have been successful in the U.S. yet. Another reason the Buffalo-area branches are attempting to unionize is to keep Starbucks corporate from showing up and changing things around without democratic input. "They've come in and arbitrarily decided certain local managers and certain members of local management are unfit and just fired them. We didn't ask for that," barista Michael Sanabria said in an interview with Forbes. "That wasn't something we wanted at all."

Since everyone knows that baristas hold the keys to the public's delightfully caffeinated hearts, it's probably best to keep them happy.