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Starbucks workers in Cheektowaga re-voting on unionizing as key figure in process steps away

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Workers at a Starbucks in Cheektowaga will vote again on whether to join a union, after the result of the first election was inconclusive.

It comes just as a Starbucks executive who was a frequent presence in Buffalo-area stores amid the union's organizing efforts is leaving the company.

A National Labor Relations Board official directed a revote for workers at 1775 Walden Ave., near the Walden Galleria. The NLRB plans to count the ballots July 15.

In the first election, an NLRB vote count on March 9 showed workers at that location voted 8-7 in favor of being represented by Starbucks Workers United.

Starbucks re-vote

Workers at a Starbucks in Cheektowaga are re-voting on whether to unionize. 

But Starbucks argued that several other ballots were improperly excluded from the count and could possibly change the election's outcome. The case was transferred to the NLRB's regional director in Atlanta, who ordered additional ballots to be counted.

The vote then stood at 10-10, with one challenged ballot. After Starbucks filed more objections, the NLRB regional director in Atlanta then ordered a new election.

The Walden Avenue location drew attention as a store that Starbucks last year temporarily converted into a training location, before turning it back into a store. Union representatives claimed that was intended to disrupt their organizing efforts, which Starbucks denied.

As the revote takes place, Starbucks executive Rossann Williams is leaving at the end of the month. She has been with the Seattle-based corporation for 17 years, most recently as executive vice president of North America.

A Starbucks letter to employees said Williams' decision to leave was “not taken lightly and was preceded by discussion about a next opportunity for Rossann within the company, which she declined.”

A federal complaint filed by the NLRB against Starbucks in May alleged the company had been "creating the impression" among Buffalo-area store employees that their union activities were under surveillance by their employer. It claims high-ranking officials, including Williams, were making "unprecedented and repeated visits to each store." Starbucks has denied using any surveillance tactics against its employees.

Michelle Eisen, a Starbucks Workers United leader, commented on Williams' departure while speaking at a labor conference in Chicago on Friday: "I feel completely comfortable in speaking for my fellow partners when I say we are more than happy to take full credit for that resignation."

Matt Glynn

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