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Starbucks ‘Launches Aggressive Anti-Union Effort’ As Upstate New York Stores Organize - Management ‘Urges’ Baristas ‘To Reject The Union At Mandatory Listening Sessions & Shuts Stores Holding Drives’

Published Wednesday, November 24, 2021
by Michael Sainato/The Guardian
Starbucks ‘Launches Aggressive Anti-Union Effort’ As Upstate New York Stores Organize - Management ‘Urges’ Baristas ‘To Reject The Union At Mandatory Listening Sessions &  Shuts Stores Holding Drives’

(BUFFALO, NEW YORK) - Will Westlake, a Starbucks Barista in Hamburg, New York – just outside Buffalo, whose store recently filed for a Union Election, was told by a manager he could attend an earlier mandatory Anti-Union meeting in early November because he was scheduled to work early the next day.

The meeting was in a nearby hotel and when Westlake arrived he found out he was the only Worker in attendance, with six members of Starbucks management.

The meeting lasted for about one hour.

“That was basically how my last Anti-Union meeting was, totally separated from the rest of my Co-Workers and having to be surrounded,” Westlake said. “They started off by going around and saying that they wanted me to vote no for the Union.  And then they went back and forth talking about how great all the benefits are at Starbucks and if we vote in a Union, we may not have any of those benefits.”

Westlake emphasized the numerous Anti-Union meetings have been framed as listening sessions, but it’s the Workers who’ve been doing most of the listening: the sessions have largely consisted of management presenting Anti-Union talking points, with little feedback from Workers involved.

Westlake’s experience is just one part of an aggressive Anti-Union Campaign run by the giant coffee chain as six Starbucks stores in the Buffalo area have filed for Union Elections with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in recent weeks.

If successful, the stores would be the first Starbucks corporate locations to Unionize in the U.S.

Workers have reported numerous captive audience meetings, one-on-one meetings, store shutdowns, closures, remodelings and text messages – a mode of contact that was previously used only for emergencies.

Dozens of corporate executives have flooded stores with the intent to deter Workers from voting to Unionize, Workers say.

“The company has sent more managers here to Buffalo than Workers voting in the first three elections.  There’s no way it can be viewed as anything other than an attempt to spy on partners and intimidate them,” said Brian Murray, a Starbucks Barista in Lancaster just outside Buffalo.

Murray added: “Every day we’re forced to deal with new managers we’ve never met and it’s draining to have to go through constant Anti-Union meetings, text messages and managers trying to pry into our lives.  It shouldn’t be acceptable for them to treat anyone like this, especially during the lead-up to an election that should be free and fair.”

The former Starbucks CEO and Billionaire Howard Schultz visited Buffalo to present a case against Unionizing to Workers in early November and incited criticism for making an analogy to the Holocaust in discussing the company’s mission.

Starbucks Workers United filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) Charge with the NLRB on 4 November over Starbucks’ conduct during the Union Campaign, which included Starbucks shutting down two stores that are holding Union Elections and transferring Workers to disrupt the voting units.

Starbucks characterized the closures as coincidental.

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