HR Policy Association

New Starbucks Unions Already Facing Ouster

Only a year after voting for unionization, workers at multiple Starbucks stores are petitioning to vote the same union out as first contracts remain elusive. Out of nearly 300 new Starbucks unions in the last two years, none have been able to secure a first contract. The increasing number of union decertification bids could mean the unionization honeymoon period is over.

From whence it came: Notably, the latest employee push to vote out the Starbucks union came from a location in Buffalo, New York, where the now-notorious Starbucks unionization campaign began. The campaign has since spread to over 300 stores, resulted in hundreds of unfair labor practice allegations against Starbucks, and included then-CEO Howard Schultz being compelled to testify before a Senate committee. That the newest employee-led campaign to vote out the union is occurring in Buffalo signals a potential end to the unionization honeymoon period that has captured the public eye over the last year. 

First contract blues: Despite winning elections at nearly 300 Starbucks locations, the union – Starbucks Workers United – has yet to successfully negotiate an initial contract for a single store. This lack of success highlights the difficulties associated with securing an initial bargaining agreement – particularly for new, independent unions. The nascent Amazon Workers Union has experienced a similar lack of success. Winning elections is one thing, negotiating collective bargaining agreements is another. 

The unions dig in: In response to the various decertification petitions in New York, Georgia, and Oklahoma, the SBWU plans to file “blocking charges” – unfair labor practice charges against Starbucks that prevent a vote to oust the union from occurring until such allegations are adjudicated. Although such tactics were limited by the Board in recent years, the current Board is finalizing a rule to once again make blocking charges viable, which over the years have proven to be an extremely effective tactic for unions to combat efforts by employees to vote them out.

Outlook:  The rash of decertification activity highlights both the difficulties unions face in securing first contracts after securing representation, and the Board-sanctioned uphill battle employees face in voting them out. It remains to be seen whether the continued lack of first contract success will begin to slow the still growing Starbucks nationwide union campaign.

Published on: May 12, 2023

Authors: Gregory Hoff

Topics: Employee Relations, People and Culture

Gregory Hoff

Associate Counsel, HR Policy Association

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Contact Gregory Hoff LinkedIn


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