Photo caption: Starbucks logo (Photo credit: Karen Juanita Carrillo)

Starbucks workers are still trying to get management to bargain with union reps who now represent more than 7,000 workers organized in 264 Starbucks stores in some 36 states

Under the banner of Starbucks Workers United (SWU), workers recently conducted a multi-day, multi-city #DoubleDownStrike—from Friday, Dec. 16 to Sunday, Dec. 18—at some 100 Starbucks union stores.

New York City workers at the company’s flagship Starbucks Roastery at 61 Ninth Avenue in Manhattan had voted to form a union last April. Their subsequent dealings with what they have deemed a management intent on breaking the union and who were not willing to deal with specific health and safety issues at their store led to a 46-day walkout which only ended in mid-December. 

In a prepared statement, strikers claimed, “We walked out the morning of October 25th out of concern for ourselves and our fellow partners and management’s lack of communication about bed bugs found in our store. This was a spontaneous, unplanned strike that was a genuine response to the fear of bed bugs as well as other health and safety concerns like mold in the ice machine.”  

The 46-day walkout ended when Starbucks corporate agreed to regular ice machine servicing and inspections, as well as regular pest inspections for bed bugs. But efforts to negotiate a collective-bargaining contract with Starbucks corporate remains an ongoing issue.

Starbucks corporate has accused the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) of colluding with SWU to promote union membership. The NLRB has accused Starbucks of carrying out an anti-union campaign that has included employee surveillance and firings. 

This past October, Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal penned a letter to Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz asking him to answer to accusations of anti-union tactics: “We are deeply troubled by Starbucks’ anti-union campaign,” the letter states, “including the ongoing and illegal weaponization of benefits against unionizing workers, and the company’s brazen efforts to flout the [National Labor Relations Act].”

The senators wrote that under the leadership of CEO Schultz, “…Starbucks has also weaponized wage increases and new benefits in its anti-union campaign, threatening to withhold them from workers who have voted to unionize, and even those who are organizing and have not yet had a union election—and not hesitating to act on that threat. Starbucks is reporting record profits, and has ample cash to pay for additional benefits even ‘without hampering the dividend’ for Starbucks shareholders. But instead of increasing wages and benefits for all workers, you have illegally extended them only to non-unionized workers and used this disparity to threaten workers considering unionization.” 

Starbucks’ founder Howard Schultz served as the company’s interim CEO for the past year. He was brought on to try to stabilize Starbucks as it was dealing with growing competition from other coffeehouse stores and lowering employee morale. The company has already named Laxman Narasimhan, a former PepsiCo executive, as its new permanent CEO.

Starbucks representatives did meet with union members at the bargaining table on Oct. 24 for what was supposed to be the start of a three-week bargaining period. But Starbucks reps quickly left the negotiations when they learned that some union members had joined the negotiations over Zoom. “The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) prohibits any party from making recordings or transcripts of contract negotiations because such actions ‘inhibit the free and open discussion necessary for conducting successful bargaining.’” Starbucks corporate complained in a press release about the Oct. 24 meeting: “Starbucks issued written statements to Workers United representatives regarding our concerns and our willingness to return to the bargaining table as soon as appropriate and lawful bargaining conditions—set by the NLRB—were in place. It was our sincere hope that the issue would be resolved swiftly, and we could begin bargaining. Unfortunately, Workers United representatives continued to thwart NLRB rules throughout the week, resulting in extensive and wholly unnecessary delays that negatively affect our partners.”In an attempt to pressure Starbucks corporate to return to working on a collective-bargaining agreement, unionized Starbucks workers have promoted a #NoContractNoGiftCard campaign designed to discourage people from buying Starbucks gift cards during the 2022 holiday season. Starbucks corporate has not yet negotiated union contracts with any of the stores that have voted to unionize, even though Starbucks workers accounted for, according to GBH News, “roughly a quarter of all union elections this year, and the union was victorious in four out of every five elections.”

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