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Arizona Starbucks workers vote to unionize

In a 25-3 vote counted Friday afternoon, the workers of a Starbucks store in Mesa voted in favor of unionizing -- making them the third store in the U.S. to do so.
Credit: AP
Michelle Eisen, a barista at the Buffalo, NY, Elmwood Starbucks location, the first Starbuck location to unionize, helps out the local Starbucks Workers United, employees of a local Starbucks, as they gather at a local union hall to cast votes to unionize or not, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, in Mesa, Ariz. The NLRB delayed the vote due to an appeal by Starbucks. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — Employees at a Starbucks in suburban Phoenix voted Friday in favor of unionizing, amplifying the growing interest in organizing among the coffee chain's workers.

In a 25-3 vote counted Friday afternoon, the workers at the Starbucks near Power and Baseline roads voted to unionize, becoming the first store in Arizona to do so. 

The Mesa store is notably the first outside Buffalo, New York to successfully unionize. 

Pro-union leaders have said Starbucks workers deserve the right to collectively bargain on issues like benefits, seniority pay and pandemic safety protocols.

Originally scheduled for last week in Mesa, Arizona, the election was postponed after Starbucks filed a request for a review with the Washington, D.C.-based National Labor Relations Board.

The Seattle-based coffee giant argued that a single store should not be allowed to hold a vote. Instead, a vote should include all the locations in that store's assigned district.

The labor board denied the request, saying it did not see any issues.

Over 65 stores in 20 states have filed petitions with the labor board to hold union elections since two in Buffalo unionized in the last few months, according to labor union Workers United.

Starbucks officials have spoken against unionizing, asserting the company functions best when it can work directly with its employees. Some workers have disputed that claim.

Efforts to form unions have led to tense conflict. Earlier this month, seven Starbucks workers were fired after spearheading a union campaign in Memphis, Tennessee. The company said they violated policy by reopening a store after closing time, inviting non-employees inside and doing TV interviews from there.

Employees countered that Starbucks was retaliating and said they planned to file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

After decades of decline, unions have become a popular strategy. Multiple polls show union approval is high — and growing — among younger workers. U.S. union membership levels are ticking upward for workers between 25 and 34, even as they decline among other age groups, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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