Store rate

Unionized Starbucks workers leave Buffalo store, say health concerns are unfulfilled

Six Buffalo, New York Starbucks employees who voted to unionize last month left the store on Wednesday, citing concerns the understaffing could put the health of their employees and customers at risk as COVID cases increase In the region.

According to Starbucks Workers United, about a third of staff are currently absent due to a positive COVID test or exposure to someone who tested positive. Workers said they will return to work when they feel they have enough staff and resources to do their jobs safely. A return on Monday is possible.

The six employees who left the store formed a picket line outside and three more inside before Starbucks finally decided to close the store for the day.

“The pressure to go to work is on many of us, while some of us already have other health issues. The company has once again shown that it continues to put profits first. people, “Starbucks Workers United said in a statement.

The workers move comes days after the company announced a new policy requiring a COVID vaccination by January 10 or for any unvaccinated employee to be tested weekly.

“This is an important step that we can take to help more partners get vaccinated, limit the spread of Covid-19 and create choices that partners can have based on what is best for them,” said Starbucks COO John Culver said in a letter sent. to employees at the end of December. “If vaccination rates increase and community spread slows, we will adapt accordingly. But if things get worse, we may need to consider additional measures. For now, I hope we will all do our part to protect each other.

The union representing Starbucks workers had previously accused the coffee giant of ‘shock and awe’ tactics such as changing the hours of pro-union workers and having managers discuss with employees the potential drawbacks of unionization to deter two more New York stores to vote to unionize.

A cup of Starbucks coffee is seen inside a Starbucks coffee shop in Washington, DC on April 17, 2018. Six employees at a Starbucks in Buffalo, New York, who voted to unionize last month have left their homes. work Wednesday because they feared they were too short. staff to do their jobs safely.
Saul Loeb / AFP via Getty Images

All Buffalo area stores have been operating as “take out” locations since Monday, Starbucks said. More than 15,000 people have tested positive in Erie County over the past week, the highest seven-day total to date.

Starbucks spokesman Reggie Borges said the company has met and exceeded CDC and expert guidelines and offered compensation for vaccines and isolation.

“Beyond that, all leaders are empowered to make any changes that make sense for their neighborhood, which includes reducing store opening hours or moving to 100% take-out only, which is the case in Buffalo, ”he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.