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Ballots mailed out as workers at 3 Buffalo-area Starbucks attempt to start unions

Ballots were mailed out Wednesday to Starbucks partners at three Buffalo-area locations asking for a vote of yes or no to unionize stores.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Ballots are in the mail.

Since late August, members of Starbucks Workers United have been working diligently to unionize three stores in the Buffalo area: the Elmwood Avenue, Camp Road, and Genesee Street locations.

On Wednesday, their efforts inched closer to that goal.

Michelle Eisen has been a barista at the Elmwood Avenue Starbucks for 11 years and says, "Today was another victory, in a line of smaller victories, leading up to what is going to be the biggest, which is actually voting in our union."

In a press release sent out by the group on Wednesday, the group said, "Despite Starbucks' repeated attempt to stop partners from voting, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has once again upheld our legal right to vote to join a union here in Buffalo. Starbucks' PR team says they want partners to vote, yet they continue to use every delay tactic in the book to try and stop an actual vote."

Eisen added: "They filed a motion (Tuesday) asking for a stay. The NLRB did not respond to that, therefore our ballots were mailed out to us at 5 p.m."

The goal, Jaz Brisack says, isn't necessarily creating unions; the unions are a means to the end. The end, rather, is about changing corporate culture and partners' experiences, day-in and day-out. 

"I think we're lucky because Spot Coffee is an example of a coffee shop union," Brisack says. "But there's almost no unions in the restaurant coffee industry."

Since August, corporate employees and top executives have made stops in Buffalo and held meetings. It's not clear what role local union efforts have played in past, present and potential future visits.

But Eisen and Brisack say that for them, there's no confusion.

"Anyone who has any clue about what's going on knows that that's directly related to our union campaign," Eisen said.

The deadline for partners who are eligible to vote is December 8.

To date, three other Western New York Starbucks locations are petitioning the NLRB for the right to vote for unions as well. 

2 On Your Side reached out to Starbucks Corporate for comment on local push to unionize stores in Buffalo and have yet to hear back.


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