Employees at 1st unionized Starbucks walk off job due to ‘unsafe working conditions

Northeast

Starbucks employees and supporters react as votes are read during a viewing of their union election on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in Buffalo, N.Y. Starbucks workers have voted to unionize over the company’s objections, pointing the way to a new labor model for the 50-year old coffee giant. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Starbucks Workers United says some employees of the nation’s first unionized store have walked off the job.

According to the group, the workers left Wednesday morning due to “unsafe working conditions.”

“They have been pressured to work by Starbucks despite understaffing and health concerns,” Starbucks Workers United said. “We believe everyone deserves the right to feel safe at work! Partners will return when it’s safe to do so.”

It was just last month that the Elmwood Village coffee shop became the first of nearly 9,000 company-owned stores in the United States to unionize.

Among the five employees who walked out of the morning shift, they say that although a co-worker is infected and up to 10 others are in isolation with COVID-19 symptoms, they feel pressured to work unless they show symptoms. But Starbucks spokesman Reggie Borges says that, even without symptoms, they can isolate if they were in direct contact with a positive case.

The workers also say they were told not to enforce the mask mandate on customers. But Borges says that workers have the option of enforcing it, but are not encouraged to enforce the mask mandate because it tends to cause conflict with customers.

Borges submitted this link from the company about what Starbucks customers should know.

Throughout the pandemic we have met and exceeded all CDC and expert guidelines for safety, and we’ve supported partners with vaccine pay, sick days and isolation-pay. 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% take-out only, which is the case in Buffalo.

Reggie Borges, Starbucks Spokesperson

Outside New York, Starbucks workers in Boston are also looking to unionize after the results of the Elmwood Village vote. In order to unionize, a store needs a majority vote, which means at least 50 percent, plus one.

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