Three Starbucks locations in upstate New York have announced their intent to vote on unionization, adding to three separate stores in the area that are already voting in a union election that may result in the first organized Starbucks locations in the country.

A group calling itself Starbucks Workers United is representing employees at the three stores in Buffalo, New York, and hopes to join an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union. Voting is proceeding, and the results of the union drive could be known as soon as next Thursday. If successful, the stores would be the first in the United States to organize.

The three additional Buffalo locations appeared before the National Labor Relations Board on Thursday and asked that it grant those stores permission to vote on whether they want to unionize, according to ABC News.

The factors cited in the effort to organize were a perceived lack of training, issues with pay, understaffing, and stressful working conditions.


“We are forming a union to bring out the best in all of us. ... Many of us have invested years of our lives in Starbucks, while others have recently become partners. We all have one thing in common — we want the company to succeed and we want our work lives to be the best they can be,” Starbucks Workers United wrote in a letter to CEO Kevin Johnson in August when announcing the formation of an organizing committee.

Starbucks has pushed against the effort and has encouraged workers at the locations to vote against the drive, according to union organizers.

Starbucks has argued before the NLRB that, because of similarities between the 20 locations in the Buffalo market, all the stores should be included in a unionization vote. Including all 20 stores would make it more difficult for the union because it would require securing a majority vote from a much wider pool of people.

The coffee giant failed in its attempt to bundle the locations, with the NLRB ruling in late October that the initial three stores could hold individual votes. Starbucks has appealed that decision to the full board in Washington, D.C.

Should the NLRB decide to review the decision not to bundle all 20 stores, ballots from the current vote will be held back until a decision is made — but if the labor board denies the appeal, results from the election will be announced as early as late next week.

Earlier this year, a Starbucks representative told the Washington Examiner that the company does not oppose workers’ right to organize but believes doing so would be unnecessary given the work environment and that it provides generous benefits, including several medical, vision, and dental plans, as well as discounted company stock.

“We are pro-partner and not anti-union,” the representative said, referring to the title that the Seattle-based corporation uses to describe its employees.

The Starbucks unionization effort has also spread out of just New York. Last month, Starbucks workers at a location in Mesa, Arizona, filed paperwork with the NLRB to have their own election on whether to unionize.

Economic conditions have given workers attempting to unionize more leverage, given that many businesses, including Starbucks, have been struggling to hire and retain workers and have been forced to hike wages in order to stay competitive. Employees might also feel emboldened to organize because they have less fear of losing their jobs.

Earlier this year, a nearly 6,000-employee Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, spent seven weeks voting on whether to join the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union. The effort attracted significant media attention, and the unionization push drew support from both sides of the political spectrum, including from socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.


The Bessemer vote failed, although the union lodged complaints about the election with the NLRB claiming that the retail giant “created an atmosphere of confusion, coercion and/or fear of reprisals and thus interfered with the employees’ freedom of choice.”

This week, an NLRB regional director gave Amazon workers the go-ahead to hold another election, which is a rare move for the labor board. It is unclear when the second vote will be held or if it will be by mail or in person.