Boston Starbucks Employees Looking to Piggyback on Buffalo Unionization Start Process

Following a successful vote at a Buffalo, New York, Starbucks to unionize, employees at two of the coffee chain's Boston locations are trying to do the same.

The two Boston stores are looking to be represented by Workers United Labor Union, the same organization that, if certified by the National Labor Relations Board, will represent the Buffalo Starbucks.

According to WGBH, 36 out of 47 employees in the Brookline and Allston stores put their names on cards to indicate they want to form a union. A representative from the labor union confirmed both stores filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board on Monday saying there is enough interest for the process to move forward.

The employees said they have not yet heard back from management regarding their unionization endeavors.

If the Buffalo store's unionization is certified, it will become the first store in the chain's over 50-year history to do so.

Kylah Clay, a 23-year-old barista at the Allston location, said in an interview with WGBH that she sees this as the beginning of a national movement. She called the Buffalo store "the first domino" and said she hopes the Boston stores are the next.

Starbucks, California
Two Starbucks locations in Boston are beginning the unionization process following a Buffalo Starbucks store's successful vote to unionize. Above, the Starbucks logo is displayed on a cup and bag at a Starbucks store on October 29 in San Francisco, California. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Starbucks insists its more than 8,000 company-owned U.S. stores function best when it works directly with its employees, which it calls "partners." Still, the company has shown a willingness to bargain outside the U.S., with workers in Victoria, Canada, ratifying a collective bargaining agreement with Starbucks in July, nearly a year after voting to unionize.

A Starbucks spokesperson, when asked for comment Tuesday, referred the Associated Press to a letter from company CEO Kevin Johnson from a week ago about going forward together as "one Starbucks, grounded in the belief that partners are the heartbeat of this company."

The NLRB said Thursday that workers voted 19-8 in favor of a union at Buffalo's Elmwood Avenue location, one of three stores in the city where elections were being held.

A second store rejected the union in a vote of 12-8, but the union said it might challenge that result because it wasn't confident all of the eligible votes had been counted. The results of a third store could not be determined because both sides challenged seven separate votes.

If no objections are filed to those results, they could be certified as early as Thursday. If objections are filed, there could be a series of hearings and appeals that delay certification of the votes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Buffalo, New York, Starbucks employees
If the vote is certified by the National Labor Relations Board, a Buffalo, New York, Starbucks will become the first in the U.S. to unionize. Above, Starbucks employees celebrate after the votes are counted on December 9, 2021, in Buffalo, New York. Photo by Eleonore Sense/AFP via Getty Images