Starbucks announces new benefits but only for stores not holding events: NPR


A view of a Starbucks store on October 29, 2021 in Novato, Calif.

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A view of a Starbucks store on October 29, 2021 in Novato, Calif.

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A month after his return to Starbucks as interim CEO, Howard Schultz has announced new benefits, including expanded training, improved sick leave and credit card tipping for approximately 240,000 Starbucks employees at more than 8,800 stores nationwide. But not for the people who are forming the union.

“We don’t have the liberty to make these improvements in places where there is a union or where the union is going on,” Schultz said on a conference call with shareholders on Tuesday.

Starbucks said all employees, including unionized store workers, would receive a pay increase that was first announced in October. On August 1, employees will receive either a 3% increase or $15 an hourly, whichever is greater, and tenured hourly employers will receive an even larger wage.

The announcement comes as more than 230 Starbucks stores have filed petitions for union elections and nearly 50 stores have voted to join the national union Workers United since December, making it one of the most significant union drives in America. has been made.

Schultz indicated that Starbucks may move to exclude unionized stores from the new benefits in the comments to store managers over a video call in mid-April. At the time, he said he had just learned that Starbucks was not allowed by law to offer new benefits to a store that voted a union while in the process of collective bargaining.

Workers United called Schultz’s claim “dead wrong” and filed allegations of unfair labor practice with the National Labor Relations Board.

“Under section 8(a)(5) [of the Fair Labor Standards Act]Employers cannot simply unilaterally implement new benefits during contract negotiations,” wrote Workers United’s attorney Gabe Frumkin. “Instead, they must bargain with the union if they want to implement new benefits programs.”

In the filing, Frumkin alleged that Schultz misrepresented the law by giving the false impression that Starbucks could not even offer such benefits to workers or their union representative. Schultz’s comments had an immediate and profound effect on the organization of nationwide campaigns, Frumkin wrote.

Schultz says no union contract for what Starbucks is already offering

Union Drive at Starbucks has been remarkable, not only because of the astonishing speed at which it has spread, but also because food and beverage establishments are among the least unionized in the country, with just over 1% of the sector unionized in 2021. to the Labor Department.

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

Schultz said on Tuesday’s shareholder call, “Compare any union contract in our area to the ever-expanding list of wages and benefits that we’ve provided our people for decades, and the union contract won’t even come close to what Starbucks is offering.” ”

As he promises change at Starbucks, Schultz says outside forces are running a union campaign

Upon returning to the company, Schultz admitted that Starbucks would have to change. Over the past month, he has traveled to various regions to participate in “co-creation” sessions with store employees, referred to as partners at Starbucks, as well as the problems they face on the job. Heard on scheduling and payment issues.

“It was difficult and emotional at times to hear the challenges and the problems being faced by partners,” Schultz told store managers in a video call last month.

But in a shareholder call on Tuesday, Schultz clarified that he thinks the source of workers’ complaints may have less to do with Starbucks and more with the events that have shaped workers’ lives from the Great Recession to the global pandemic.

“Given today’s uncertainty and economic instability, the concerns of these youth are fully justified,” he said. “They look around, and they see the growing labor movement as a possible remedy to what they’re feeling.”

It was a toned-down version of comments made last month, when he called “companies across the country, in many ways, under threat of unionization” and called Starbucks union drive “trying for a new external force”. referred to as. Desperate to disrupt our company.”

That feature has angered Starbucks workers, who say they are leading the efforts to unionize at their stores, not some “outside force.”


People protest in front of Starbucks on April 14, 2022 in New York City. Activists gathered to protest Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s anti-unionisation efforts and demanded the reinstatement of workers fired for trying to unionize.

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People protest in front of Starbucks on April 14, 2022 in New York City. Activists gathered to protest Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s anti-unionisation efforts and demanded the reinstatement of workers fired for trying to unionize.

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Schultz has spoken of organizers deliberately and aggressively sowing divisions within the company, while “attempting to sell a very different view of what Starbucks should be.” He said he had heard stories of employees who did not support the union for not voting in the election. Pointing out the low turnout in store elections, he urged store managers to encourage all workers to vote.

In furtherance of the “external force” narrative, Schultz may refer to a particular worker in Buffalo, where the Starbucks union campaign began. Before landing a barista job with Starbucks in 2020, Rhodes Scholar Jazz Brissack of the University of Mississippi worked as an organizer with the UAW in Mississippi and with Workers United in Buffalo, where she worked as a barista at a local level. attempted to organize. Coffee chain.

But Starbucks store workers across the country describe being inspired by the barista in Buffalo, not guided by them. While lawyers for Workers United are helping store workers petition for union elections and unfair labor practice fees, workers say they are the ones reaching out to coworkers in shifts and deciding whether What do they want in a store?

Starbucks Activists Condemn Starbucks’ “Union-busting” Activities

So far, all except the more than 50 Starbucks stores that have held union elections have voted to unionize.

An election in Springfield, Virginia in April ended in a 10 to 8 defeat, challenging Workers United as a result.

Glynn Berg, the shift supervisor leading the union campaign at her store, believes Starbucks’ “union-busting” activities actually turned the vote, especially pointing to the managers’ warnings that if the store didn’t What if you voted to form a union?

“We weren’t going to be able to get a pay increase over the next coming months. We’re not going to be able to work at other stores. Certainly our partners believe so,” Berg said.

Berg says those warnings were distributed between managers and employees through mandatory sessions known as captive audience meetings, though Starbucks denies that the meetings were mandatory. The National Labor Relations Board has gone as far as to ban captive audience meetings as an unfair labor practice.

Starbucks denies involvement in illegal anti-union activities, including other stores where activist organizers have been fired. Starbucks says the employees in question were fired for violating company policies. The NLRB has issued formal complaints against Starbucks in some cases called Action were retaliatory. In Arizona, the NLRB has sued Starbucks for reinstating three employees.

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