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Two Rochester-area Starbucks become the first local stores in that chain to unionize

A tight zoomed in view of a circular Starbucks store sign, featuring the mermaid logo and their name
Steve Meddle / Lenscap Photograp/lenscap50
Starbucks coffee shop sign, March 2015.

Workers at two Starbucks stores in Rochester have voted to unionize.

The National Labor Relations board on Thursday counted the mail-in ballots for the Mt. Hope Avenue store (which is now closed for renovations until May), and the new Starbucks on Monroe Avenue in the Whole Foods Plaza in Brighton.

three people pose for a photo, all wearing Starbucks union shirts
Starbucks union organizers who work at the Mt Hope store pose for a photo on a zoom. From left to right, Hayleigh Fagan, Michaela Wagstaff and Brian Nuzzo, who also work at the new Starbucks store in Brighton at the Whole Foods Plaza.

The vote to be represented by Workers United was approved at the Mt. Hope store in a 13-11 vote, making it the first Rochester-area Starbucks to unionize.

Workers at the new Starbucks on Monroe Ave. in the Whole Foods Plaza voted 10-3 to unionize.

There has been a nationwide push to organize the coffee shop chain, and even a Starbucks in Seattle, where the coffee chain originated, voted last month to unionize.

Hayleigh Fagan works at the new Starbucks on Monroe Avenue in Brighton. She and other employees pushing for the local unionization said they faced backlash for the effort to organize.

“This has not been easy, and yet everyone has just stood together at every adversity; even stronger for the next challenge," Fagan said. "And it’s just so cool that we get to sit here today and be like, ‘We won all three stores.’"

Vermont Sen. and former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders also tweeted in support of the Rochester-area workers on Thursday.

On Thursday, a Starbucks spokesperson released this statement:

“We are listening and learning from the partners in these stores as we always do across the country. From the beginning, we’ve been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us, and that conviction has not changed.”

Starbucks also said that it will have made approximately $1 billion in incremental investments in annual wages and benefits over the last two years. The company said that beginning this summer, employees will average nearly $17/hr with a new range of $15-$23 for baristas.

Also on Thursday, workers at a sixth Buffalo-area Starbucks store voted to unionize. On Friday, workers at all three Starbucks stores in Ithaca easily approved joining the union as well.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.