Boston Starbucks workers seek to unionize after Buffalo vote

Starbucks workers at two locations in Boston are looking to unionize, days after a successful union vote at a Starbucks in Buffalo, New York, a first for the 50-year-old coffee retailer in the U.S.

GBH News reported Monday at least 36 of some 47 employees at have put their names down on cards indicating they want to form a union, according to organizing committee members with the Workers United Labor Union. That’s the same union vying to represent the workers in Buffalo.

A union representative said they filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board for both Boston stores on Monday to advise that there was enough interest from the workers to unionize. The stores are located in the city’s Brookline and Allston neighborhoods.

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.