'An enormous inspiration': More than 30 Starbucks locations have voted to unionize
People march in the middle of East Pine Street during the "Fight Starbucks' Union Busting" rally and march in Seattle, Washington on April 23, 2022. (Photo: Jason Redmond/AFP)

Overcoming increasingly aggressive opposition from the company's management, workers at more than 30 Starbucks locations across the U.S. have now voted to unionize as the wave of organizing spurred by historic wins in Buffalo just four months ago continues to mount.

On Monday, workers at a Starbucks shop in the township of Hopewell, New Jersey voted unanimously to unionize and join Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union. The store was the 30th Starbucks location to unionize in the U.S. and the first in New Jersey.

"Howard Schultz's big anti-union campaign seems like a dud that's backfiring."

"We are incredibly proud of the brave and strong Starbucks workers who voted to join Workers United," Lynne Fox, the international president of the union, said in a statement. "Our collective success in Hopewell today reflects the power that working people have to demand positive changes from their employers."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who rallied with Starbucks workers in Virginia over the weekend, congratulated the Hopewell employees and said that "workers' efforts to demand dignity on the job have been an enormous inspiration to working-class people from coast to coast."

The Hopewell victory was followed by a union win in Baltimore—the first Starbucks location in Maryland to unionize—and announcements from several more shops in California, Washington state, and Texas that they intend to join the rapidly spreading movement.

The growing momentum comes as Starbucks management, led by billionaire CEO Howard Schultz, is working to ramp up a union-busting campaign that has already resulted in several lawsuits from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). On Friday, the NLRB sued the coffee corporation for unlawfully retaliating against three union organizers in Phoenix, Arizona.

"Among other things," the NLRB alleged, "Starbucks disciplined, suspended, and discharged one employee, constructively discharged another, and placed a third on an unpaid leave of absence after revoking recently granted accommodations."

Nevertheless, Starbucks organizing continues to gain steam as workers at the e-commerce behemoth Amazon are also attempting to unionize a second Staten Island warehouse—efforts that advocates hope will galvanize a labor movement that has suffered for decades amid corporate America's concerted offensive.

Last week, after Schultz said that Starbucks and other U.S. companies are "being assaulted" by "the threat of unionization," five Starbucks locations in Richmond, Virginia voted to form a union by a combined margin of 82-14.

"This is just the beginning and we are not going to let a corporation silence our voices."

"This five-for-five yes vote shows that Richmond is a union town, and this is just the beginning and we are not going to let a corporation silence our voices," Starbucks employee Jillian O'Hare told the local Richmond Times-Dispatch. "We are not going to let billionaire union-busters stand in our way."

Longtime labor journalist Steven Greenhouse tweeted Monday that "Howard Schultz's big anti-union campaign seems like a dud that's backfiring." Starbucks has hired the notorious anti-union law firm Littler Mendelson to assist its push to blunt worker organizing, which Schultz has tried to portray as a scheme led by an "outside" group.

"After Starbucks management keeps losing so badly in union vote after union vote, one would think Howard Schultz would decide, 'Hey, our anti-union campaign isn't working. Let's drop it,'" Greenhouse wrote. "But Schultz evidently plans to double down on his anti-union push and make things more divisive."

Starbucks workers who have voted to unionize in pursuit of better pay, benefits, and conditions now face the arduous task of negotiating a contract with a hostile employer—a process that can take years.

An Economic Policy Institute (EPI) study published in 2009 found that "within one year after the election, only 48% of organized units have collective bargaining agreements."

"By two years it increases to 63% and by three years to 70%," EPI noted. "Only after more than three years will 75% have obtained a first agreement."

During a rally in Virginia on Sunday, Sanders said to cheers that "our demand right now is to tell Mr. Schultz and the people who run Starbucks: stop the anti-union activities, stop bringing people into backrooms, stop threatening people, stop intimidating people."

"And, equally important," the Vermont senator added, "start negotiating a first contract with those shops that have voted to form a union.