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Buffalo Starbucks Workers Vote for Union at 1 Store

Ms. Williams, the North America president, said in an interview on Wednesday from Buffalo that she did not feel that the run-up to the vote had been especially contentious and that she had spent much of her time there this fall listening to employees (partners, in the company’s words) and addressing “the conditions that partners had pointed out.”

The key issue at the store whose vote was unresolved, near the Buffalo airport, was whether several workers who cast ballots were actually employed at the store. The union argues that they were employed at another store in the area and worked at the airport store for only a short period of time. The company said they were eligible to vote under the labor board’s rules.

The outcome could be important for determining the union’s leverage when it seeks to negotiate a contract. Under the law, an employer is obligated to bargain with a union in good faith, but there is no requirement that it actually agree to a contract, and the consequences of failing to bargain in good faith are limited.

“The incentives to resist bargaining are significant for the employer,” said Kate Andrias, a labor law expert at Columbia Law School. “If workers are able to win a good contract, it sets a precedent.”

Professor Andrias said that the ability to win a contract in such situations often hinged on the amount of economic pressure the union can exert, and that having a second unionized store could help in this regard.

Ms. Eisen, the worker at the store that unionized, said at the news conference that the workers would like to “offer the olive branch to the company and say, ‘Let’s put this behind us.’” She added: “Now is the time, let’s get to the bargaining table as quickly as possible.”

Starbucks has faced other union campaigns over the years, including one in New York City in the 2000s and one in 2019 in Philadelphia, where it fired two employees involved in organizing, a move that a labor board judge found unlawful. The company appealed the ruling and a decision is still pending.

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