Union organizers are demanding that Starbucks reconsider its decision this week to exclude baristas at unionized stores from a major wage hike scheduled for August 1.
Eagerly awaited for months, this decision increased the wages of some workers by up to 10%. The coffee giant had earlier warned that the benefits would not apply to unionized cafes, as changes to employment conditions for those sites now require a formal negotiation process.
But at a press conference this afternoon, the union, Workers United, argued that Starbucks is withholding better wages and benefits from unionized stores to freeze the growing momentum of the union campaign, as part of a tendency to escalate. Starbucks stresses that it must now engage in collective bargaining to make most of the workplace changes at unionized coffee shops.
However, Workers United maintains that it knew these increases were coming, so on July 15, President Lynne Fox sent a letter to acting CEO Howard Schultz reviewed by fast companywhich announced that the union was “by this waiver[ing] any objections we may have to Starbucks providing union-represented employees with any wage or benefit improvements offered to unrepresented employees.
The group, which is half of the bargaining table representing workers, says Starbucks has yet to respond. But four days later, it posted a fact sheet discussing “benefits during organization” on its one.starbucks.com website that noted: “The law is clear: once a store organizes, no change in benefits is permitted without good faith collective bargaining. .”
He continues by saying:
After unionizing a store, under federal law, Starbucks can no longer unilaterally change the terms and conditions of employment, including benefits, of unionized partners outside of the collective bargaining process. Any modification outside of this process is considered a “direct transaction”, which is illegal.
The Workers United letter calls Starbucks’ argument “misleading at best, and false at worst.” The group counters that it is enough to waive its right to bargain in writing, and Fox summarizes its position in the letter by adding, “Workers United refuses to sit idly by as Starbucks cynically promises new benefits only to non-union workers. and refuses them to our members. ”
starbucks realized fast company to this online fact sheet to explain his reasoning. The sheet reassures workers that even if a store is unionized, “you still have access to all the Starbucks benefits you had when the petition was filed.” Examples he lists include health insurance plans, travel reimbursement for gender-affirming care or abortion, tuition coverage and free Spotify accounts for baristas. “Any changes to your salary, benefits and working conditions established by Starbucks after this date would not apply to you,” he clarified, “and would have to be negotiated.”
Interestingly, however, one of these benefits – reimbursement of travel costs for abortion or gender-affirming care – was not announced until May 16. At least 80 stores were already unionized by that date. Responding to a question about why it was able to offer a politically savvy health care benefit to union workers without paying them more money, Starbucks said the issue was what federal labor law allows. employers to give unilaterally, that is, improvements in access to health care may be unilateral, but wage improvements may not.
Workers United argues, however, that Starbucks has made other unilateral changes to the workplace since the labor campaign got serious. Several have actually filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging over 200 violations of the National Labor Relations Act, such as reduced cafe hours, understaffing, store closings, surveillance of workers and reduction of wages.
Starbucks is even about to add another, according to the union: it says the chain will unilaterally push back the opening hours of at least 50 unionized stores, including the first in the country, in Buffalo, to 4 a.m. 30. Baristas say it will add anxiety because it will make opening stores less safe and making those hated “cloopenings” even more drastic.
“At a minimum, Starbucks needs to come in and talk to the people involved,” says Michael Dolce, a labor attorney with Workers United. “We need some sort of agreement around this policy.” In other words: negotiation.
“Starbucks is more than happy to make unilateral changes when it suits them,” says Sarah Pappin, one of the Workers United organizers and barista in Seattle. “It’s just anti-union.”