How Starbucks is escalating war against unionizing workers

Starbucks is trying to stem the rising tide of unionization among the ranks of its employees by reportedly offering increased benefits that won’t be extended to those involved in organized labor.

Howard Schultz, the executive who built the Seattle-based coffee chain into a global behemoth and who recently reassumed the reins of the company on an interim basis, plans on pouring more money into employee benefits package, The Wall Street Journal is reporting.

Schultz told managers that the newly formulated benefits will provide incentive for baristas to stay on the job and shun calls by colleagues to join a union. He did not say when those benefits will be rolled out.

He said that unionized workers can’t legally qualify for the benefits because federal law requires that any new terms of employment be negotiated between management and labor organizers.

The Seattle-based coffee chain operates some 9,000 restaurants in the US. Of those, workers in 200 shops have petitioned to form unions.
The Washington Post via Getty Im

“People who might be voting for a union don’t really understand, let alone the dues they are going to pay,” Schultz told managers. His comments were reported by The Journal.

Schultz wants to show employees that the nascent union representing baristas — Starbucks Workers United — won’t be able to secure better benefits from management than those which the company will unilaterally offer to non-union wage earners.

“No one should allow a vocal minority to control the destiny of a particular store or district or region or the entire company,” Schultz told employees.

But the union vows to push ahead with organizing efforts that it hopes will lead to greater employee influence on the future direction of the company.

“We will continue to fight to hold Starbucks accountable to the company we know it could be,” a union rep told The Journal.

Schultz has tried to dissuade employees from unionizing.
Schultz has tried to dissuade employees from unionizing.
AFP via Getty Images

Starbucks owns and operates 9,000 stores in the United States. Of those, employees at 200 of them have petitioned to join a union.

So far, baristas at 17 of those restaurants have voted to unionize — much to the chagrin of the anti-labor Schultz.

The National Labor Relations Board has certified unions at eight Starbucks coffee shops.

Schultz has had a tumultuous first month as interim chief executive. He reportedly lashed out at Madison Hall, a 25-year-old Starbucks barista who has been active in unionization efforts at his Long Beach, California branch.

Baristas who have agitated for unionization said they want increased benefits as well as more say in the future direction of the company.
Baristas who have agitated for unionization said they want increased benefits as well as more say in the future direction of the company.
SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett

“If you hate Starbucks so much, why don’t you go somewhere else?” Schultz is reported to have told Hall during a tense exchange at Long Beach Airport last week.

Schultz, 68, has embarked on a tour of Starbucks locations nationwide in an apparent bid to dissuade his employees from voting to join unions.

Schultz released a statement to The Post saying: “With significant pressures leading to the fracturing of our partner and customer experiences, I’ve been transparent about our missteps and the reason for my return – to reimagine Starbucks – built on our core values and guiding principles.” 

“I have complete confidence that together we will restore the trust and belief of our partners and deliver an elevated Starbucks Experience to our partners and customers,” the interim CEO said.

Schultz added that the “collaboration sessions” with employees “have not been without efforts at disruption by union organizers.”

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