Starbucks employees in Buffalo go on strike

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The employees say working conditions at their location are not safe

Less than a month after voting to form a union, employees at a Starbucks store in Buffalo, N.Y., have gone on strike over grievances about working conditions. Six employees on the schedule to work instead formed a picket line in front of the store. Three other employees reported to work as scheduled, but Starbucks closed the location for the day.

The striking employees stated that the surge in coronavirus cases and illnesses among the staff had created “unsafe working conditions.” In recent days, Buffalo area Starbucks locations have been operating on a take-out-only basis.

“Pressure to go to work is being put on many of us when some of us already have other health issues,” Starbucks Workers United said in a statement. “The company has again shown that they continue to put profits above people." 

Company response

Starbucks spokesperson Reggie Borges told NPR that the company has taken significant steps to protect its employees and has offered compensation when employees test positive and must isolate.

"Over and above that, all leaders are empowered to make whatever changes make sense for their neighborhood, which includes shortening store hours or moving to 100% takeout only, which is the case in Buffalo," Borges said.

The Starbucks employees announced plans to form a union at the end of August. At the time, they said the move was not motivated by grievances. The employees, which Starbucks refers to as “partners,” said they wanted to be real partners with the company.

While Starbucks is a respected brand among ConsumerAffairs reviewers, earning 3.1 stars in a 5-star system, some reviewers side with the employees.

“Starbucks is taking advantage of their devoted customers and great employees,” Karen, of Sparks, Nev., wrote in a ConsumerAffairs review. “Prices roll out higher and higher every couple of months. Starbucks keeps taking customers’ money but will not pay their employees well.”

Starbucks has said it will raise wages for its U.S. baristas at least twice in 2022, bringing its minimum wage to $15 an hour by the summer. Meanwhile, the unionization effort that began in Buffalo could spread.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported this week that employees at a Starbucks location in the Loop have requested a union certification election to affiliate with the Service Employees International Union.

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