Since SBWorkers United — the union group representing Starbucks baristas — celebrated two unions in Buffalo, N.Y. becoming the first-ever unionized Starbucks cafes in the country, many more Starbucks cafes have followed suit in filing with the National Labor Relations Board. In total, 54 Starbucks stores, particularly on the West Coast and in the Midwest, will be voting to unionize.
This represents a monumental domino effect for the Seattle-based coffee giant’s workers, which has been met with requests to delay or change the parameters of certain union elections, and other actions that have been criticized as union-busting.
But how will this chain reaction affect the restaurant industry, which has less union representation than almost any other industry? According to experts, it could cause other coffee chains or even employees within other segments of the industry to think, “if Starbucks could do it, then we can too.” But unionization could have ramifications for the historically transient restaurant industry, especially as automation becomes the norm.