Employees at three local Starbucks have been attempting to unionize for nearly two months, and if it were to pass, they would be the first few unions in the country for the company.

The unions seem more unlikely now.

Starbucks announced that two of those three Buffalo-area locations pushing unionization efforts will be closed until further notice. 

The closures have nothing to do with the attempts to unionize, and these two Starbucks do intend to reopen. The location at 933 Elmwood Ave. is set to reopen next week after renovations, while the location at 1775 Walden Ave. in Cheektowaga will be utilized for extensive employee training.

It should be noted that no employees lost their jobs due to the closures, but some Starbucks employees have stated that they felt these temporary closures have been enacted by Starbucks as part of an anti-union effort; however, this has not been confirmed.

One thing for certain is that these recent closures have prevented the employees from further organizing these unionization efforts. 

Once the stores reopen, the employees plan to continue with the push for unionization in hopes of becoming the first unionized Starbucks stores in the country. 

The History of a Starbucks’ “Almost Union”

In 2004, Starbucks’ employees in New York City attempted to organize a union under the Industrial Workers of the World labor union. They were driven by their starting wage of $7.75 an hour being set at a “not livable wage,” and Starbucks’ refusal to guarantee regular hours per week. The 12 workers submitted union cards to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for a certified election, but prior to that, Starbucks had filed an appeal with the NLRB, asking that this election be extended to several sister stores rather than just the one in New York City that had the initial push for the movement. The NLRB then agreed to review the appeal.

Shortly after that, the Industrial Workers of the World withdrew the election petition because the appeal could have caused a several-year delay in the election’s certification, which led Starbucks to use that as a defense, claiming that the union withdrew their petition due to a lack of interest by their employees. And the Industrial Workers of the World historically does not get involved in the NLR’s election process, thus the initial Starbucks’ unionization efforts fizzled out in 2004, but those crucial moments in 2004 continue to spark drives to unionize in Starbucks around the country in the following 15+ years.

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