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The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that Starbucks "was dealt a setback Tuesday after a federal labor authority ruled that the tallying of ballots can move ahead in a worker vote on unionizing three of the company’s cafes.

"The ruling by the National Labor Relations Board came after Starbucks Chief Executive Kevin Johnson warned that the formation of a union at the Buffalo, N.Y.-area cafes could disrupt the chain’s relationship with its workers. A direct line to workers has made Starbucks more responsive to employees’ needs, Mr. Johnson said, and the company already has pledged better wages and increased staffing as Buffalo baristas have raised concerns."

Today, the story notes, "Starbucks baristas in New York’s second-largest city are slated to conclude voting on whether to unionize under Workers United Upstate New York, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union. About 100 workers are eligible to vote across three stores in the 19-location market."

KC's View:

Making predictions is always hazardous, so I want to emphasize here that I am only guessing … but it just feels like Starbucks may lose this one.  The issue is then whether the pro-union mentality cascades through the company, and how management deals with it.

And then (I'm only partly joking about this), what is the over-under on when Howard Schultz tries to retake the reins at Starbucks?