Starbucks Arizona Union Election Ordered by U.S. Labor Board

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(Bloomberg) -- A U.S. labor official granted a request by Arizona workers at Starbucks Corp. to hold an election that could expand the new unionized foothold at the retail coffee chain, rejecting the company’s arguments against holding store-by-store votes.

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In a Friday ruling, the National Labor Relations Board’s regional director ordered that ballots be mailed out Jan. 14 to employees at a store in Mesa, Arizona, who will have until Jan. 28th to return them.

The regional director wrote that “given the lack of centralized control and employee interchange” among stores, the labor board didn’t need to depart from its standard position that the employees of a single worksite constitute an appropriate voter pool for a union election.

The ruling follows a landmark labor victory last month in which Starbucks employees in New York voted to establish the sole unionized restaurant among the coffee chain’s thousands of corporate-run U.S. sites. Since then, employees in cities including Boston, Chicago, Knoxville, Tennessee, and Starbucks’ hometown of Seattle all have petitioned to unionize with the same labor group as the New York and Arizona workers, the Service Employees International Union affiliate Workers United.

Read More: Starbucks Union Vote Sets Up a Watershed Moment for U.S. Labor

When asked about the Friday ruling, a Starbucks spokesperson referenced a December letter to employees in which the company’s North America president Rossann Williams reiterated that “we do not want a union between us as partners,” but that “we respect the legal process,” and “will bargain in good faith” at the New York store where workers voted to unionize.

“We hope to be able to speak with the company with an even playing field, have the chance for them to actually hear us partner to partner,” said Mesa Starbucks employee Michelle Hejduk, a leader in the union campaign. “We’ve worked really hard on this and we’re still standing strong.”

The union has petitioned to overturn its loss at a second New York store over alleged misconduct, while results at a third hinge on voter eligibility disputes.

Employees at the newly unionized New York store have been mounting a strike since Wednesday over what they say are insufficient Covid-19 safeguards and staffing. Starbucks has said it exceeds guidelines from experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(Updates with company statement, comment by Mesa employee)

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