RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Senator Tim Kaine visited two Richmond-area Starbucks stores on Feb. 23 in a show of support for workers there hoping to organize their workplaces as the first union Starbucks in Virginia.

The push for unionization comes in the wake of a successful union drive at a Starbucks store in Buffalo, New York, which paved the way for a flood of union petitions across the country.

That nationwide support has been overwhelmingly positive, said Dillon Dix, who’s worked at the Starbucks in Forest Hill for nearly four years, “It’s just wonderful to have people that support us from all over.”

Kaine told the workers his father instilled a respect for unions in him at a young age, as he worked closely with union workers in the family’s small metalworking shop.

Virginia leads the South in petitions for unionization at Starbucks stores, with seven cases officially filed with the NLRB, of which all but one are in the Richmond area.

“We believe in things like seniority pay, wage increases, better benefits and healthcare access for all of the employees of Starbucks,” Dix said.

While Dix and other workers expressed optimism as the process to get a union election continues, Workers United expressed concern in a statement over what they called intimidation tactics employed by Starbucks in other states.

“Starbucks has continued to aggressively target its partners who are active in the movement, with strategies intended to intimidate workers into voting against a union,” they wrote. “Going as far as to fire workers for trying to organize, under the guise of breaking policies. “

There is no date yet set for elections at the Richmond stores, but Dix said the location at Forest Hill would likely be among the first to vote – and could serve as an example for stores across the state.

“It’s going to be a landmark – we see all these stores unionizing, it’s going to change the restaurant industry entirely,” Dix said.