Newly Unionized Buffalo Starbucks Workers Walk out over Coronavirus Concerns

Newly Unionized Buffalo Starbucks Workers Walk out over Coronavirus Concerns

Half a dozen recently unionized workers at a Starbucks near Buffalo walked off the job Wednesday after issuing a list of demands including hazard pay, N95 face coverings, free coronavirus testing kits and company policing of compulsory masks for all customers.

Their departure prompted the temporary closure of the outlet as coronavirus cases surge across New York State, as Breitbart News reported.

Starbucks defended the decision to shutter the Buffalo store rather than keep it open with staff from other locations once the workers walked out. Starbucks spokesperson Reggie Borges explained the decision was one of safety.

“For the last two years we exceeded all safety standards to make sure our partners are safe,” Borges said.

Starbucks employees at a store in Buffalo made a historic move this week when they voted 19 to eight in favor of unionizing. https://t.co/c1ZEIOmbVi

— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) December 10, 2021

He added Starbucks provides sick pay as well as full pay for up to two self-isolation periods. This week the company also announced it will require all of its employees to either show proof of vaccination or be tested weekly for coronavirus.

All of the Buffalo-area stores have been operating as “grab-and-go” locations since Monday, Starbucks said. More than 15,000 people have tested positive in Erie County over the past week, the highest seven-day total to date, NPR reports.

Starbucks Workers United, which won the December vote at the Buffalo store where workers walked out, alleged the coffee chain has not been doing enough to protect employees from the pandemic.

The union wants workers to be able to enforce mask mandates for customers and for Starbucks to provide employees with N95 masks, coronavirus testing kits and hazard pay.

Workers in the Buffalo store “have been pressured to work by Starbucks despite understaffing and health concerns,” the union said in a tweet Wednesday. “We believe everyone deserves the right to feel safe at work! Partners will return when it’s safe to do so.”

A former Starbucks barista claims she was fired from her job after she refused to wear an LGBTQ Pride T-shirt because of her Christian faith. https://t.co/2Jcvli3CZY

— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) November 28, 2020

Kyli Hilaire, a barista at the store, which is in Elmwood in the Buffalo area, told the New York Times it was understaffed, that workers were struggling to enforce masking rules and many were anxious about their health as they watched a rise in local coronavirus cases.

“One of our requests was to close the store to let the outbreak of Covid run its course so we can return with a full staff rather than burning out the partners who are able to work,” Hilaire, 20, said.

“They’re refusing to take the necessary precautions so our partners are not coming to work sick.”

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Simon Kent