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Starbucks to close 130 stores in Russia, unionization push expands to over 260 U.S. stores

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Yahoo Finance's Dani Romero joins the Live show to discuss Starbucks employees' push for unionization across American stores, executives' responses, and how it may affect the stock or business.

Video transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

- Starbucks is severing ties with the Russian market, the company announcing it is closing 130 stores across Russia and, quote, "will no longer have a brand presence in the market after 15 years in the region." Now, Starbucks added that it will continue to pay its 2,000 employees in Russia for six months as its employees start to transition into new jobs. Now, the coffee giant is the most recent company to withdraw from Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.

Well, sticking with Starbucks here, it's been about six months since two Buffalo area stores successfully voted to unionize, kicking off a nationwide movement and prompting a number of other locations to file for union elections. Yahoo Finance's Dani Romero is tracking this for us. And Dani, when we look at the momentum here at Starbucks, it's very different, really, than what we're seeing from Amazon. There's really showing-- nothing to show that it's slowing down anytime soon.

DANI ROMERO: Yeah, that's right, Seana. The unionization efforts at Starbucks really spread like wildfire from those two stores in Buffalo to now over 260 stores have filed a petition for union election with the National Labor Relations Board. So far, 97 stores have voted, and 58 locations-- of those elections, excuse me, have been certified as the bargaining representative for the union.

So you might be wondering, what's really fueling all of this unionization, and also union elections? Well, according to the NLRB, union elections are up 57% during the first half of this first year compared to the last year. And after speaking with labor experts, the pandemic really heightened the awareness for workers who were in non-union settings to really gather this collective voice and speak up on matters that really interest workers, revolving around wages and also working conditions.

Now, for these Starbucks baristas who have voted in favor of unionization, they are really fighting for a voice in the corporation around policies and procedures. Another thing that really came up is the benefits, making them more affordable for baristas. I was speaking with a barista in Buffalo, New York, and she was saying that the benefits, Starbucks benefits look really great on paper, but they're not affordable. They're actually fairly expensive, and not attainable for these baristas.

Another thing that came up was seniority pay, valuing those workers that have been at the company for years. And lastly, these workers really want the company to recognize their rights to vote. But I will say this. Starbucks has held that position that they really believe the success is coming together, and doesn't believe that a union is necessarily the effective way to do that. Guys?

- So then Dani, what are the broader implications, then, for Starbucks' business, as the pace of these unionization efforts really gathers speed?

DANI ROMERO: Yeah, that's a really good question. You know, according to a survey from BTIG, they've found that 68% of consumers actually say that it really won't impact their business-- you know, or their visit, excuse me, to Starbucks if Starbucks and the union don't reach an agreement. But on the flip side, analysts say that employee turnover is really high at a company like Starbucks. So these baristas that are really voting for unionization, they might not even be there when this contract really finalizes. And so it's still unclear how this will all really play out, but the bargaining has started for that first contract in Buffalo. And according to experts, it really could take up to a year to finalize that. Guys?

- All right, Dani, thanks so much.

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