Starbucks coffee shop in hometown Seattle votes to unionize By Reuters


©Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Starbucks logo is seen in front of the new Starbucks coffee shop in Warsaw March 6, 2011. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel


By Hilary Russ

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Starbucks (NASDAQ:) workers at a cafe in Seattle, the coffee chain’s hometown, voted 9-0 to join a union, according to a ballot count Tuesday.

The results mark the seventh Starbucks-owned coffee shop in the United States to join the union, following five in Buffalo, New York and one in Mesa, Arizona.

It’s the first location in the company’s own backyard to join Workers United. Baristas at more than 150 US locations have petitioned a federal labor agency to hold union elections since August, when the union campaign went public.

The company operates approximately 9,000 US locations, with thousands more operated under license agreements.

The union boom comes during a nationwide labor crisis.

Some investors have asked Starbucks to take a neutral stance on the union, noting that the company has spent years building a reputation as an employee-friendly workplace.

“For a company that depends on a strong brand and customer loyalty, where people have the ability to go elsewhere very easily, reputation is critical,” said Jonas Kron, chief advocacy officer at Trillium Asset Management.

Last week, Trillium and a group of other investors with $3.4 trillion in assets under management wrote to Starbucks asking it to stop sending anti-union messages to employees.

One unknown is what strategy the company will pursue if former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz steps in for outgoing chief executive officer Kevin Johnson.

Schultz “has a long history of not seeing Starbucks unionized,” Kron said. “But it’s worth at least giving him a chance to pan or reset.”

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Chris Barrese

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