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Elmwood Ave. Starbucks employees walk off the job, protest unsafe working conditions

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Posted at 1:09 PM, Jan 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-05 13:58:48-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Employees at the Elmwood Avenue Starbucks walked off the job today to protest what they say are unsafe working conditions.

Workers said Starbucks leaders are not taking the Omicron variant seriously and the store is increasingly short-staffed due to COVID-19 cases and exposures.

“We had an opportunity to sit down with corporate yesterday to express concerns over our safety and our customer safety, and we were told that as long as the needs of the business are being met, then everything should be fine. My statement on that is the needs of the business are not my concern, the needs of my fellow employees, customers are my concern.”
Michelle Eisen

Eisen said one-third of employees at the Elmwood Ave. Starbucks are out right now for COVID related reasons. She said workers will stay off the job until they have adequate staffing levels.

In a statement, Starbucks spokesperson Reggie Borges said:

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.

Borges also said Starbucks has made decisions based off "three guiding principles:"

1. Prioritizing the health and well-being of our partners and customers
2. Supporting health and government officials as they work to mitigate the spread of this virus
3. Showing up in positive and responsible ways to serve our communities

This week, Starbucks announced additional steps we would take to keep our partners safe and comply with the latest direction from the federal government. We are always working and listening to our partners on ways we can better support them, especially when it comes to issues of safety.

As we move to meet federal guidelines, we are asking partners to self-disclose vaccination status and following CDC-approved isolation windows to 5 days from 10 days. Partners will continue to be fully paid for up to 2 self-isolation periods, but can speak to their manager about options if they exceed this.

We remain confident in our principles, increased safety measures, and resources and tools for local decision making.