Starbucks workers in New York State are joining the union

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Campaigning for a union outside of the Starbucks in Leesburg, Virginia.

NEW YORK State baristas and other workers at the Starbucks coffee shop in Syracuse’s Armory Square, are seeking to join a union as part of a nationwide wave of organised labour initiatives at the Seattle-based chain.

On June 7, Buffalo-based Starbucks Workers United filed a petition with the National Labour Relations Board (NLRB) that calls for a vote to form a union at the Syracuse location.
That petition has since been rescinded, but employees are still working to organise at the Armory Square shop and could resubmit the call for a vote, a Workers United spokesperson said.
The shop is at 290 W. Jefferson Street in the Centre Armory development (adjacent to the 24-second shot clock monument).
Documents at the NLRB show the union petition for that location is still classified as ‘open’, meaning no vote has been certified. The filing indicates the union could represent full- and part-time baristas, shift supervisors and assistant store managers, but not store managers, clerical staff, guards or certain other supervisors.
It appears to be the first attempt to form a union at a Syracuse-area Starbucks, and comes less than a year after the same union won a landmark election at a Starbucks in Buffalo’s Elmwood neighbourhood. That vote marked the first successful union vote at a company-owned Starbucks in the United States.
Since then, according to the Starbucks Workers United web site, more than 180 Starbucks around the country have been unionised, representing more than 1,600 workers. Starbucks Workers United is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
In upstate New York, according to the NLRB, there have been at least 27 filings to form unions at Starbucks shops since the Buffalo-Elmwood petition in August 2021. Records show workers voting to form a union in 11 cases, with the others either yet to be decided or closed for other reasons. Records show no cases in which workers voted against forming a union.
The votes for unionising Starbucks in upstate New York came in Buffalo and its suburbs, along with Albany and Ithaca.
In Ithaca, union workers have accused Starbucks of closing a store near Cornell University in retaliation for the organising activity. The NLRB has gone to federal court seeking an order prohibiting Starbucks from interfering with union efforts.
In each of the upstate cases, the workers seeking to form a union are represented by the Buffalo law firm Hayes Dolce, which has also represented Starbucks organisers across the country.
Through a spokesperson, Starbucks issued a statement saying the company is aware of the union effort at the Syracuse store.
‘We are listening and learning from the partners in these stores as we always do across the country,’ the statement says. ‘From the beginning, we’ve been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us, and that conviction has not changed. We respect our partner’s right to organise and are committed to following the NLRB process.’
Another noteworthy Starbucks in Syracuse closed last month. The shop at 177 Marshall Street near the Syracuse University campus closed on June 23 after 22 years in business. NLRB records do not show any attempt at union activity for that site.

  • In a historic win for workers organising in the media industry, an overwhelming majority of workers at America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) have voted for union representation with the Communications Workers of America in a National Labour Relations Board election.

The workers, members of ATK United (CWA Local 1400), will now seek to bargain a fair contract that recognises the value of their contribution to the famous brand and their consumers.
‘I am ecstatic about this win,’ said Jackie Gochenouer, a photo test cook at ATK. ‘The executive team says they are willing to negotiate in good faith, and now it’s time to hold them accountable for this. Now is the time to show that we, the heart of the company, can be trusted with more transparency and a more powerful voice in the big decisions.’
For months, workers have been organising around the low pay, expensive health care costs, understaffing, high turnover, and other working conditions that ATK had failed to effectively address.
Now, the new unit that includes editors, test cooks, and video, TV, and podcast producers will be seeking to negotiate a fair contract that includes competitive salaries; affordable healthcare plans; improved benefits and wellness programmes; increased subsidisation of commuting costs; transparent and consistent processes for hiring, performance reviews, promotions, and pay rises; a sincere commitment to diversity at all levels; a continuation of remote work flexibility; and the establishment of processes for employee input regarding in-office policies.
‘It’s been beyond heart warming and faith-instilling to see so many of my coworkers stand up and show up for one another,’ said Emily Rahravan, an assistant editor at ATK. ‘Many have gone out of their way to ensure other people and departments are cared for and listened to. I am so excited to see how much more positive change ATK United can make in the future when we have a say in how the company’s resources are used.’
For nearly 30 years, America’s Test Kitchen, which includes Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country magazines, as well as America’s Test Kitchen Kids, award-winning podcasts, and the upcoming Amazon-produced reality TV series ATK: The Next Generation, has been teaching home cooks the skills they need to be confident and capable in the kitchen.
The dedicated team of workers behind the famous brand help produce and support ATK’s award-winning content in multiple ways.
Members of ATK United (CWA Local 1400) are proud to be part of and stand in solidarity with the growing movement of workers among similar media companies such as Condé Nast, the New York Times Wirecutter, and Gimlet Media, organising to transform the food media landscape for the future.

  • A super-majority of quality assurance testers at Blizzard Albany (formerly Vicarious Visions) have announced the formation of the Albany Game Workers Alliance/CWA and filed for a union representation election with the National Labour Relations Board.

Last week, the workers asked that Activision Blizzard management voluntarily recognise their union and respect their right to organise without retaliation or interference. The company acknowledged the request but has not said whether or not it will recognise the union.
‘There’s issues in the video game industry that often go unnoticed because our work is seen as more of a passion instead of a job. Quality assurance workers deserve fair treatment and proper compensation for the work we do which is why we chose to form a union.
‘Building the Albany Game Workers Alliance/CWA with my fellow co-workers will create a mechanism that allows us to make our voices heard. We know that by having a seat at the table our union will not only give us structure and power, but also give us a path forward to improve our workplace because management won’t be able to ignore us all anymore,’ said Amanda Laven, Associate Test Analyst at Blizzard Albany.
The Blizzard Albany workers are the second group of Activision Blizzard workers to request representation with CWA. In May, quality assurance workers at Activision’s Raven Software studio in Wisconsin won their union election and became the first certified union at Activision Blizzard.
Although Activision CEO Bobby Kotick eventually sent a letter informing employees that Activision Blizzard would accept the results of the Raven QA testers’ union election and begin negotiations, the company had worked tirelessly to prevent the election from happening.
‘There is absolutely no reason for Activision Blizzard to refuse to recognise the Blizzard Albany workers’ union,’ said CWA Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens.
‘There is no doubt about what the workers want. Over 95% of the quality assurance testers have signed onto a vision statement requesting union recognition. Recognising the union will show that Activision Blizzard’s management is serious about improving the company’s work environment. Engaging in a protracted union election fight would further undermine morale and cement management’s legacy as enablers of a toxic, hostile work environment.’
Microsoft is in the process of acquiring Activision Blizzard, and has entered into a legally binding agreement with CWA to remain neutral when workers want to organise a union which includes a streamlined process for choosing union representation.
In a vision statement, the members of the Albany Game Workers Alliance/CWA asked that Activision Blizzard management take the high road and follow Microsoft’s decision and commit to a similar labour neutrality agreement so that Activision Blizzard throughout the company may join a union without fear of retaliation.