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The Bitter Fight For Unions at Starbucks, One Year Later

A spring surge in union activity at Starbucks stores has tapered off as the company faces hundreds of anti-union complaints from its employees.

Demonstrators protest outside a closed Starbucks in Seattle, Washington, on July 16, 2022.
Demonstrators protest outside a closed Starbucks in Seattle, Washington, on July 16, 2022.Photographer: David Ryder/Bloomberg

On Aug. 30, employees at three Starbucks locations in the Buffalo, New York area will celebrate a special milestone — it’s been one year since they formally announced plans to form a union. In the months following the announcement, a majority of workers at two of those stores voted to unionize, setting off a wave of momentum that subsequently spread to hundreds of US locations. But organizing employees allege that the company has responded with firings, store closures and other retaliatory behavior, allegations the company denies. Now, as the union’s focus shifts to the courts, the initial momentum is beginning to taper off. In July, petitions to organize new Starbucks stores fell 80% from a March high.