BUFFALO, N.Y. (NewsNation) — A second Starbucks location in Buffalo voted to unionize Monday as employees at the first location returned to work after a five-day strike closed their doors. It was the union’s first major action since voting to organize in December.
Now, Starbucks employees in several other states are following suit, with workers at a location in Ohio announcing Monday that they will begin the process to unionize. Locations in Massachusetts, Tennessee, New York, Illinois, Colorado, Arizona, Washington, and Oregon are also looking to secure what they are calling “appropriate wages and working conditions.”
“Once we have a union, we will be able to hold our company accountable to its own ethics and to its promises,” said Joseph Nappi, a Starbucks employee. “I just hope that Starbucks knows that we are not intimidated. We are not scared.”
Employees of the store in Buffalo walked off the job Wednesday, saying they lacked the staff and resources to work safely amid surging COVID cases. “The company has again shown that they continue to put profits above people,” Starbucks Workers United said in a statement.
A company spokesperson said Starbucks has met and exceeded Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, including offering vaccine and isolation pay. The spokesperson also noted that all Buffalo area stores have been operating as “grab and go” locations since last week.
Brittany Groff has been an employee of Starbucks for five years and says the company paid for her education at Arizona State University. Still, she says the terms of employment during the pandemic have not been fair.
“The things we are looking for and hoping for are more fair compensation, especially considering how much the company itself makes,” Groff said. “It’s not really fair for us to be working as hard as we are through this pandemic and sometimes struggling to pay our bills.”
As for prices, some experts, including a law professor at University at Buffalo, have said they don’t see major changes heading for consumers at this point.