Starbucks announces new benefits, but not for merging stores

A month after returning to Starbucks as interim CEO, Howard Schultz announced new benefits, including expanded training, improved sick leave and tipping credit cards for some 240,000 Starbucks employees in more than 8,800 stores nationwide – but not for those uniting unions. .

“We do not have the same freedom to make these improvements in places where there are unions or where there is a trade union organization,” Schultz said at a conference call with shareholders on Tuesday.

Starbucks said all employees, including those in uniting stores, will receive a pay rise, which was first announced last October. On August 1, employees will receive either a 3% increase, or $ 15 per hour, whichever is higher, and full-time hourly employers will receive even greater increments.

The announcement came at a time when more than 230 Starbucks stores have petitioned for union elections, and about 50 stores have voted to join the national Workers United union since December, making it one of the most significant union rallies in America.

Schultz hinted that Starbucks could waive new benefits at union stores, in comments to store managers during a video call in mid-April. At the time, he said he had just learned that Starbucks was not eligible to offer new benefits to the store that voted for the union while they were in the process of collective bargaining.

Workers United called Schultz’s allegation “sadly wrong” and accused the National Labor Council of unfair labor practices.

“According to section 8 (a) (5) [of the Fair Labor Standards Act], employers simply cannot realize new benefits during contract negotiations unilaterally, ”wrote Gabe Frumkin, a lawyer for Workers United. “Instead, they have to bargain with the union if they want to implement new benefit programs.”

In a statement, Frumkin accused Schultz of misrepresenting the law, giving the false impression that Starbucks could not even offer such benefits to workers or their union representatives. Frumkin wrote that Schultz’s comments had an immediate and profoundly outrageous effect on the organization of campaigns across the country.

Schultz says no union contract is in line with what Starbucks already offers

The union movement at Starbucks has been remarkable not only because of the staggering speed with which it has spread, but also because food and beverage businesses are among the least united in the country: in 2021 the unions are just over 1 % of the sector, to the Department of Labor.

But unlike many other food and beverage chains, Starbucks has long prided itself on being an excellent employer, offering health care, retirement, stock options and free college tuition for full-time and part-time employees who are referred to as partners in Starbucks. Indeed, generous benefits and a socially progressive culture are a big part of what has attracted many workers to Starbucks, which has about 9,000 stores nationwide.

“Compare any union contract in our sector with the ever-expanding list of wages and benefits we’ve given our people for decades, and the union contract doesn’t even come close to what Starbucks offers,” Schultz said in a shareholder call Tuesday.

View of the Starbucks store on October 29, 2021 in Novata, California. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

While he promised a transformation at Starbucks, Schultz says outside forces are driving the union campaign

On his return to the company, Schultz acknowledged that Starbucks needed to be transformed. Over the past month, he has traveled to different regions to attend sessions he calls “collaboration,” with store employees who are called Starbucks partners, listening to them about the challenges they face at work, as well as planning and pay issues.

“Sometimes it was hard and emotional to hear the problems and challenges faced by partners,” Schultz told store managers in a video call last month.

But during a shareholder call on Tuesday, Schultz made it clear that, in his view, the source of workers ‘resentment may not be related to Starbucks, but more to the events that shaped workers’ lives, from the Great Recession to the global pandemic.

“These young people are quite right, given today’s uncertainty and economic instability,” he said. “They look around and see in the turbulent labor movement a possible remedy for what they feel.”

It was a softened version of comments he made last month when he spoke of “companies across the country that are in many ways under threat of union threat” and called the Starbucks a “new outside force trying desperately to disrupt our campaign.” ».

This description has irritated Starbucks employees, who say they are leading the union effort in their stores, rather than some “outside force”.

Schultz said the organizers were deliberately and aggressively sowing units within the company, “trying to sell a completely different view of what Starbucks should be like.” He said he had heard stories of employees who did not support the union, mocked them for not voting in the election. Pointing to the low turnout in the store election, he urged store managers to encourage all employees to vote.

In promoting the story of the “external force,” Schultz could have meant one particular worker in Buffalo, where the Starbucks union campaign began. Prior to joining Starbucks in 2020, Jazz Brisak, a Rhodes Fellow from the University of Mississippi, worked as an organizer with UAW in Mississippi and with Workers United in Buffalo, where she attempted to organize a barista at a local coffee network.

But employees of Starbucks stores across the country describe being inspired by the barbarians at Buffalo, not running them. While Workers United’s lawyers help store employees file union election petitions and allegations of dishonest work practices, workers say it is they who turn to colleagues through change and decide what they want as a store.

Starbucks condemns Starbucks’ “union ban.”

All but a few of the more than 50 Starbucks stores where the union election has taken place to date have voted in favor of joining the union.

An elections in Springfield, Virginiain April ended in a loss of 10: 8, a result that Workers United is challenging.

Gailin Berg, shift manager who led the union campaign at their store, believes Starbucks ‘”union destruction” activities have actually changed voices, noting managers’ warnings about what could happen if the store votes to unite. .

“We have not been able to get a raise in the coming months. We will not be able to work in other stores. Of course, our partners believe in it, ”Berg said.

Berg says these warnings were delivered through mandatory sessions between managers and employees, known as meetings with audiences in captivity, although Starbucks denies that meetings were mandatory. The National Labor Relations Council has banned meetings with audiences in captivity as an unfair work practice.

Starbucks denies involvement in illegal anti-union activities, including in other stores where workers’ organizers have been fired. Starbucks says the workers in question have been fired for violating company policies. The NLRB has filed formal complaints against Starbucks in several such cases, calling for action were in response. In Arizona, The NLRB sued Starbucks reinstate three workers.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit

Back to top button