A photo shows Starbucks executive Rossann Williams sweeping floors in a store.
Starbucks said exeutives routinely visit stores to hear from workers and learn about conditions in stores.
Some workers said they believe the visit could be tied to a union drive.
Starbucks executives have visited stores in Buffalo, New York over the last couple of weeks to talk to workers, sweep floors, and even take out the trash, according to some store employees.
A viral photo recently tweeted by Starbucks Workers United, a group representing unionizing Starbucks workers, shows Rossann Williams, Starbucks' executive vice president and president of North America, sweeping floors in front of a Starbucks counter.
Starbucks spokesperson Reggie Borges told Insider that such visits are routine. Executives, including Williams, frequently travel to Starbucks locations to hear from workers and learn about conditions in stores, he said.
Starbucks calls the visits "listening sessions."
"Listening sessions are a common occurrence for our leaders," he said. "In the last year, our leaders have held more than 2,000 listening sessions across the country. Rossann Williams alone has done 175."
Some employees believe the visits are instead a response to workers from three stores in the area announcing an intent to unionize in late August. Workers said chronic understaffing, along with long waits for customers and product shortages, pushed them to organize this year.
"Right after we announced [plans to unionize] three stores, Starbucks sent Rossann Williams from Seattle with a few other people. They've never been here before, they wouldn't usually be. It's very out of the ordinary," Alexis Rizzo, a shift supervisor who has worked at Starbucks for six years and a member of the union organizing committee, told Insider.
Borges says that a regional vice president visited Buffalo stores in March of this year.
Members of the union's organizing committee told Insider that upper management, including regional directors and store managers, have in the last few weeks completed other basic tasks around the stores like taking out the trash or making whipped cream.
"The district manager had to roll up the sleeves on his really expensive shirt," Rizzo said.
Three other Starbucks workers in Buffalo stores who are not involved in the union organizing committee told Insider that they've also seen high-level executives in their stores recently.
Starbucks said it is "pro-partner, not anti-union" and that it respects the rights of workers to organize.
"We categorically deny there is any spying or intimidation going on. Our leaders are listening and taking action to address the issues in our stores and supporting our partners in stores," Borges told Insider.
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