Long before the union campaign in Hopewell, New Jersey, went public on Jan. 11, workers discussed organizing in September, shortly after the first three Buffalo stores’ campaign went public.
Russ Lingle, a shift manager and organizing committee member at the Hopewell Starbucks, said workers in New Jersey were careful to preserve an element of surprise.
“When we went public, it completely blindsided our store manager and our district manager, because they had no idea that this was happening,” Lingle said.
Lingle said when employees at his cafe heard stories about Starbucks’ efforts to stop the union in Buffalo, this generated a sense of solidarity among workers and increased their determination to organize.
RJ Rebmann, a worker at the Genesee Street Starbucks in Cheektowaga, New York, said the corporate presence on the shop floor has subsided since that store became the second unionized Starbucks. Corporate support managers, who local employees said were deployed to the store to surveil the union effort, and executives have left the location, Rebmann said.
This shift has given local Starbucks workers a new sense of power, one that workers lacked when using the company’s pre-existing channels of communication, Rebmann said.
“Starbucks corporate has been saying, ‘We don’t want the union to come in and become like a third-party that goes between us,’ but Starbucks has been around for, 50 years at this point,” Rebmann said. “This is the first time that we feel like we can truly be listened to.”
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Starbucks’ stance against unionization has not changed. Starbucks Workers United members have alleged the company is ramping up anti-union meetings between managers and employees at stores where campaigns have gone public.
Rebmann thinks the campaign may inspire more workers to organize.
“If we can do it, then you can do it,” Rebmann said.
NLRB records collected by Restaurant Dive show Boston and Chicago have emerged as relative strongholds for the union, with four Boston-area and three Chicago-area stores filing for elections. Those cities, like Buffalo, have seen the emergence of union organizing at independent cafes predating the drives at Starbucks.