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Starbucks workers look to unionize in Upstate NY, Kellogg's reaches agreement with striking workers

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Yahoo Finance's Dani Romero breaks down the latest unionization efforts as Starbucks workers look to unionize three stores in Upstate New York and Kellogg's reaches an agreement with its striking workers.

Video transcript

- Well, it has been a busy year when it comes to a broader push from workers for rights. And now that battle has landed at Starbucks, as a couple of stores up in upstate New York are battling to unionize. It would be the first time we've seen that at Starbucks locations here in the US.

- And for more on that battle, I want to bring on Yahoo! Finance's Dani Romero, who's been tracking that union vote as it approaches. Dani.

DANI ROMERO: Yeah, Zach, these Starbucks workers, from Starbucks Workers United, are feeling confident that come next Thursday, they will have their first three unionized Starbucks stores in upstate New York. Just last month, the National Board, uh Relati-- National Labor Relations Board mailed out those ballots to those three stores.

Votes will be tallied on December 9. And about 100 employees are eligible to vote. However, the union organizers have actually said that the company has padded that vote, and it should be much lower. Take a listen.

MICHELLE EISEN: Yes, technically, it's a little bit under 100. But that's their voter list that the company submitted. It should actually be quite a bit lower than that. It should be around 70, I would say. So they've actually padded the vote with an additional 30 people, who they say should be able to vote in these units, when they really should not be able to.

DANI ROMERO: And you can hear it right there, that the union organizers are accusing the company of using union-busting tactics. What you just heard right there is just one that they've explained. Another one is that high-level executives have actually visited these stores, continue to visit these stores, as well as to push to organize with new employees.

When I reached out to Starbucks Corporation, their spokesperson actually referred me to a letter that was sent from the North America Vice President, Rossann Williams, to all employees. And she actually explains that there are-- she acknowledges that there are operational challenges that can be resolved within the company.

But in order to do that, she says effective change needs to happen, having that direct relationship with employees. Zach.

- You know, it's interesting, Dani, because, I mean, we've seen a lot of these battles at different employers. When it comes to Starbucks though, I almost feel like they've been applauded for a lot of the benefits they've given to workers. So in terms of this battle, if Union does win, informing here, what are they looking for to gain in the contract?

DANI ROMERO: Yeah. And Zach, what I have heard is that they are looking for seniority pay, as well as to have a bigger voice in the company. They also want to keep the company accountable. And they feel like by doing that, it's by having this union contract.

But I will say that I wanted to know that the victory across these three stores will mean three separate contracts. And that's due to different level working conditions at each store. But however, getting to that negotiating table is critical. And we're actually seeing that with Kellogg workers, who have finally reached an agreement this week, after two months of a strike.

They will-- the agreement-- they'll have to-- excuse me, those workers will have to agree on this proposal by Sunday, they're going to vote on it. And it includes a 3% wage hike for long-time legacy workers, as well as pay increases for new transitional, as well as new, hires. Another thing I wanted to note is that in this proposal, there aren't any changes to their health benefits. But they have added new vision and dental benefits, as well.

But back to the Starbucks vote. I just wanted to say one last thing, is that according to 2020 data from the Labor Department, many union organizations that have tried to unionize, especially in the retail food sector, have actually failed. Only 1.2% of that sector is actually represented by a union.

So many observers are definitely watching this vote. But as well, they say that they don't know if this pro-labor is a movement toward the future. or is it just a moment of times, Zach?

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