Union objects to results of two Starbucks unionization votes

The union vying to represent Starbucks employees has formally objected to the results of elections at two Buffalo-area stores, saying the coffee retailer waged a "shock and awe" campaign meant to dissuade workers from voting to unionize.

Employees at another local store, in Buffalo, voted 19-8 in favor of a union last week, becoming the first at a Starbucks-owned store in the U.S. to do so.

Workers United, in objections filed with the National Labor Relations Board late Thursday, said the company’s intimidation tactics affected the results of voting at two other stores where elections were being held, in suburban Hamburg and Cheektowaga.

The 50-year-old company has actively fought unionization for decades, saying its more than 8,000 company-owned U.S. stores function best when it works directly with employees.

Workers at the Hamburg location voted 12-8 against a union. The outcome of the Cheektowaga vote could not be determined because both sides challenged seven separate votes.

In the objections, Workers United said Starbucks employees "were subjected to a massive campaign of overwhelming psychological force from the moment they publicly expressed the desire to form a union."

Dozens of managers were sent in to speak against the efforts in individual and group meetings with employees, according to the filings. Workers were told they could lose benefits under a union, and pro-union employees were spied on and saw their schedules changed and hours reduced.

The actions disrupted the "laboratory conditions" considered necessary for a fair election, the union said.

A Starbucks spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

If the NLRB determines that the claims could be grounds for setting aside an election, it would order a hearing to determine whether a new election should be held.

Workers at all three stores began voting by mail last month on whether they wanted to be represented by Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union.

After the Buffalo vote, Starbucks workers at two locations in Boston petitioned the NLRB for union elections. Three other Buffalo-area stores and a store in Mesa, Arizona, also have filed petitions with the labor board for their own union elections. Those cases are pending.