BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Starbucks baristas in the Queen City are continuing their efforts in creating a union for the coffee company's employees.
Two more stores filed for union elections, Wednesday afternoon.
The group "Starbucks Workers United" held a press conference to share developments from its efforts. The members have also caught the attention of western New York congressman, Brian Higgins.
Since the Buffalo group "Starbucks Workers United" began its quest to unionize the coffee company, the group states corporate is taking part in "busting" their union efforts.
Starbucks barista William Westlake of the Hamburg location said, "In the last week, we have seen corporate managers come into our store. We've had Rossann Williams sitting in our parking lot watching workers coming up to them and bring up points of information that she had no way of knowing. We believe that we are being surveyed and they are looking to build focus groups to target this campaign and to try to change this election outcome.
"The leader of workers united in western New York, Gary Bonadanna, said this is an intimidation tactic and is asking for the community's support.
"It's unethical, it's immoral," Workers United Upstate New York leader, Gary Bonadanna said, "What's been going through our minds is why is the president of Starbucks North America spending her entire holiday weekend going store-to-store in her car. Swarming the stores with her team, just saying 'How are you doing? How are you feeling?' And it's intimidating. It's meant to influence their decision to form a union."
Late Wednesday afternoon, Starbucks global corporate communications, Reggie Borges told 7 Eyewitness News via phone that the surveying and listening sessions are efforts Starbucks has always worked to implement, but that this listening session, in Buffalo, was ignited in an attempt to hear the baristas' concerns.
Over the last year, Starbucks leaders have visited markets around the country for over 2,000 listening sessions. Rossann Williams[Starbucks Executive Vice President US Retail]has done over 175 herself across the U.S., according to Borges.
However, Buffalo-Niagara Falls congressman Brian Higgins said if Starbucks considers its employees as "partners" to the company it should allow the baristas the organize.
"I see all of the literature from the Starbucks corporation. They call their employees, the baristas 'partners' but this is not a partnership. They say that they try to balance between profitability and social conscience," Congressman Higgins said. "They are making fact-based arguments about working conditions, about wages and a company is not listening to them. They are not being good partners. They being good stalkers in an effort to try and intimidate these young people who have demonstrated great courage."
The group states all it wants is a protected working environment.
"In fact, that's not why we're pro-union. We are pro-union because of any individual actions of a manager. We are pro-union because we believe that we can form a better partnership, that we can make Starbucks a better company and that we're going to be able to do that for things like guaranteeing better outcomes for people who stay long-term at Starbucks," Westlake added.
The organizing committee said more than 50 Buffalo-area Starbucks partners sent a letter to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson to demand what they call a "meaningful partnership" in their store operation and no interference in the union election process.
Starbucks released this statement this afternoon to 7 Eyewitness News:
"Throughout all of this, our goal remains the same: We want to create the very best jobs for every partner. We do that by listening and working together in a way that brings meaningful support to solve every challenge."