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Two more Starbucks locations seek union vote, as workers accuse company of trying to interfere

A Starbucks union sign
Tom Dinki
A modified version of the Starbucks Siren meant to show union solitary is displayed at Starbucks Workers United's news conference Aug. 28.

And then there were five. A Buffalo-area union organizing campaign announced Wednesday that workers at two more Starbucks locations have filed petitions for a vote whether to unionize.

The latest to join the effort are workers at Starbucks locations at 9660 Transit Rd. in East Amherst and on Walden Avenue at Anderson Road in Cheektowaga. They join locations on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo, Genesee Street in Cheektowaga and Camp Road in Hamburg, where petitions were filed with the National Labor Relations Board last week.

Workers, while providing an update Wednesday, claimed Starbucks executives have been visiting local stores to engage with workers, or “partners” as they’re referred to under corporate guidelines. Those workers, and union activists, believe the purpose is to sway the vote.

“In the last week, we've seen corporate managers come into our store. We've had Rossann Williams sitting in our parking lot, watching workers, coming up to them and bringing up points of information that she had no way of knowing,” said William Westlake, a barista at the Hamburg location where petitions were filed. “We believe that we are being surveyed, and that they are looking to build the focus groups to target this campaign and to try to change this election outcome.”

Williams is a vice president for Starbucks North America. A corporate spokesperson dismisses claims that the visits are out of the ordinary.

Starbucks global corporate communications officer Reggie Borges said such visits are a routine practice by corporate leaders, who have conducted more than 2,000 visits to locations for the purpose of holding listening sessions with employees. Williams, he added, has personally visited more than 175 stores for such sessions.

Borges explained “our success — past, present and future —- is built on how we partner together and lift each other up, always with our mission and values at our core. Throughout all of this, our goal remains the same: We want to create the very best jobs for every partner. We do that by listening and working together in a way that brings meaningful support to solve every challenge.”

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.