Days after a Starbucks location in Buffalo, New York successfully unionized, workers at two Boston stores filed for union elections this week with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The news comes after the Elmwood Avenue Starbucks location voted in favor of unionization in a 19-8 vote last Thursday. A second store in the Buffalo area voted against unionizing in a 12-8 vote, while the results of a third store are yet to be confirmed and approved by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Out of almost 9,000 stores, the Elmwood store is the first in the company’s history to unionize. Following Elmwood's victory, two Boston locations — one in Brookline and one in Allston — have workers following suit.

Starbucks is the biggest coffee chain in the world, with almost 235,000 employees in the United States. According to the New York Times, unionization efforts at Starbucks had been going on for years, with unsuccessful campaigns in 2000 in New York City and in 2019 in Philadelphia. The most recent attempt was earlier this year in August when the three locations in Buffalo requested a union election for their union, to be called Starbucks Workers United

This push for unionization reflects nationwide issues: a lack of improvement of working conditions, especially in light of the pandemic. Pro-union workers say that some of the issues that they want to see addressed include higher wages, raises for longtime workers, and more support in terms of staffing and training new hires, according to CNN.

Workers say that Starbucks executives from outside the state have made constant visits to the stores in the last few months, helping workers with their duties, pulling them aside to have one-on-one conversations, and telling them not to engage with the media. Jaz Brisack, a barista at one of Starbucks’ Buffalo locations involved in union elections, told VICE that, “They’re rolling up expensive suits to wash dishes and do trash runs. It’s almost comical.” 

In addition to the above intimidation tactics, Starbucks has also tried to get a region-wide vote rather than three individual stores in the area voting, as stated by current Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson in a statement released on Tuesday, Dec. 7. However, the NLRB decided against this and proceeded with the individual store elections.

Starbucks has also tried to implement changes recently in response to staffing issues and the labor shortage caused by the pandemic. In October, the company announced that wages would be increased from $14 to $17 in the summer of 2022, according to the Wall Street Journal. This raise will come alongside a $200 bonus for employees who refer new hires to the store.

Starbucks has also been placing an emphasis on direct communication rather than a union, a sentiment expressed by former CEO Howard Schultz in a statement saying, “No partner has ever needed to have a representative seek to obtain things we all have as partners at Starbucks. And I am saddened and concerned to hear anyone thinks that is needed now.”

The unionization movement has gained a lot of traction and support on social media platforms, with the Starbucks Workers United account on Twitter having more than 20,000 followers. Many politicians, such as former presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, have also congratulated the Buffalo location for its victory. 

Elmwood's win comes amid a larger movement of laborers demanding their rights, as seen with factory workers from Frito Lay and Nabisco striking. Buffalo’s unionization will most likely prove to be a catalyst for more workers across the nation to push for their demands to be addressed. It’s likely that more Starbucks locations, like the two in Boston, will continuing unionizing — blazing a path for other coffee chains, fast-food restaurants, and service industries alike. 

"We will likely see many more organizing drives,” said Rebecca Givan, a labor studies professor at Rutgers University, to NPR’s Alina Selyukh. “Not all of them will be successful, but workers will start to see that there is a path and that they can succeed.