As workers in Buffalo New York tried to organise a Union, Starbucks has argued that they do not have the right to try to unionise on a cafe by cafe basis.

“The facts and the law do not support holding individual and separate elections,” Starbucks attorney Alan Model asserted on Thursday at a hearing with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The argument is that Starbucks stores across the Buffalo area are very similar, and therefore they should be treated as a single entity for voting purposes. The worker’s strategy may have been to fight a war of attrition, one store at a time, and presumably if one store votes for unionisation, it might lead to a domino effect.

The company, however, doesn’t want to get dragged through a ‘death by a thousand cuts’ voting process, nor set a precedent for other areas to follow.

In August, Starbucks employees at three locations in the Buffalo area, signed petitions to join Workers United, which is an affiliate of the Services Employees International Union. The group has organised their movement under the banner of ‘Starbucks Workers United’!

The Union’s attorney, Ian Hayes, countered, however, that Starbucks does not have precedent on their side and that there was literally decades of case study supporting the argument for voting at individual locations.

The Hearing Officer seemed to agree, stating that bargaining units comprised of all employees at a particular location “are presumptively appropriate” under labour board precedent. Starbucks now must prove that that’s not the case in Buffalo.

Starbucks spokesman, Reggie Borges, said about their push for a wider vote, that workers often pick up shifts at different locations within regions, so any single store’s action would affect others.

It wouldn’t be fair to the partners in this market to not have a voice in whether to unionize or not – Reggie Borges

The Union accused him of ‘mischaracterising’ their letter however and said the company was being obstructive. The battle lines have been drawn and the battle to unionise Starbucks looks far from over.

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