Starbucks workers in Brooklyn and Manhattan (including the roastery near Chelsea Market) are looking to form a union.
Workers United, a union affiliated with the SEIU, announced last week that workers at five locations in the area have filed union petitions, following in the footsteps of their brethren in Western New York. Workers at 72 Starbucks locations in the country, spanning 21 states, have filed petitions to unionize.
Other Starbucks workers and leaders of other unions linked up in support by pointing out how much Starbucks’ President and CEO Kevin Johnson makes annually.
“The CEO of Starbucks makes $20.4 million a year, and he—not workers—is responsible for raising prices,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders. ”Starbucks customers see through this charade, too. Starbucks workers deserve their fair share of the record profits their hard work generates for the company, and they deserve a seat at the table to negotiate for fair wages, safe working conditions and other benefits that will improve their lives and their families’ lives.”
New York City workers want to vote on March 3.
The Starbucks Workers United Buffalo Organizing Committee, the area that started it all, said in an emailed statement that Johnson should say less and give more.
“In the past year, Kevin Johnson received an almost 40% raise, while partners across the country still struggle to pay rent and buy groceries in the same week,” read their statement. “It is worth noting that Starbucks has made record profits this past year, during a global pandemic. Starbucks has also launched an aggressive anti-union campaign where the president of Starbucks North America, Rossann Williams, leads a group of over 100 managers to live in
Buffalo now for over five months to disrupt stores, and intimidate and threaten us.
“We are confident that their anti-union efforts have not been cheap,” continued the statement. “Starbucks should respect our right to organize so we can create a true partnership with corporate and have a say in the disruption of profits that we are largely responsible for making.”
The company has tried to ward off the threat of organized workers. Last October, the Starbucks officials announced a $15-per-hour wage rate with the hopes of hitting $17-per-hour by this year.
When adjusted for inflation and productivity gains, the minimum wage in the United States should be $24.
They’ve also tried letters. Obtained first by Insider, SBUnited obtained and posted a letter written by support district manager Michaela Murphy left at a Starbucks in the Elmwood area of Buffalo (where employees voted to unionize).
“I am saddened that in the end so many of you decided it was best for Workers United to represent you to myself, your district manager, and your store managers,” read the letter, which was also posted on SBUnited’s Twitter page. “Everything we love most about Starbucks is the direct relationship we have to each of you and our ability to work together to create a better tomorrow. This is my greatest hope for you and all of us.”
Murphy ended the letter by drawing a heart over her name.
In Memphis, seven Starbucks workers were fired when they tried to unionize.
In an email, a Starbucks spokesperson said they’re all ears when it comes to their workers.
“We are listening and learning from the partners in these stores as we always do across the country,” said the spokesperson. “Starbucks success—past, present, and future—is built on how we partner together, always with Our Mission and Values at our core.
“Our belief is that we are better together as partners, without a union between us, and that conviction has not changed,” the letter continued. “Rossann Williams, evp and president, North America, has also shared with our partners that we respect their right to organize and will bargain in good faith.”
This isn’t the first time Starbucks has collided with its workers in New York. Recently, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli filed shareholder proposals with portfolio companies Starbucks Corp., video game company
Activision Blizzard Inc., and Tesla Inc. requesting reports on their efforts to prevent harassment and discrimination against employees and the steps taken to improve the situation.
Starbucks has just resolved allegations made by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding racial bias in employee promotions and that they didn’t protect employees from harassment.
“No one should be subjected to sexual harassment, racial discrimination or bias in the workplace,” DiNapoli said. “When companies turn a blind eye to abuse by their executives, managers, employees and customers, they perpetuate the harm and put investors at risk. These three companies have all had sexual harassment or racial discrimination controversies and we are seeking a full accounting of what they are doing to stop these abhorrent behaviors and what it’s costing the companies.”