The Simmering Starbucks Saga’s Coffee Cup Runneth Over

by | Jun 23, 2022 | Hospitality, NLRB, Strikes, Union Organizing

No doubt about it, the Starbucks saga caught many off guard. Only one year ago, none of the coffeehouse giant’s locations fell under the union umbrella. Fast forward to June 2022, and workers from at least 150 cafes have voted to unionize. Granted, that’s a mere drop in the bucket for the company’s nearly 9,000 company-operated locations in the U.S., but the trend continues, and workers in wide-ranging industries are looking to Starbucks baristas for inspiration. Here are the latest developments in this story:

  • A top executive, North American president Rossann Williams, will depart the company after her vocal opposition to unions. It’s one of many workplace changes coming from interim CEO Howard Schultz, who replaced ex-CEO Kevin Johnson after worker organizing drives began multiplying.
  • Schultz must feel the heat, given that Starbucks Workers United filed NLRB charges against him after Schultz told the New York Times that he refused to welcome unions with open arms. The union alleges that the sentiment proves that he doesn’t intend to have meaningful discussions at the bargaining table.
  • Yet the company won a significant labor trial victory (involving a Phoenix, Arizona cafe) when a federal judge ruled that the NLRB could not force the company to reinstate a trio of ex-employees who say they were fired for organizing. This comes as a blow to Biden’s labor board, which is eager to push open as many doors to unions as possible.
  • Workers at an Ithaca, New York Starbucks location claimed retaliation after news that Starbucks is closing a store where workers unionized.
  • Deep pockets already exist for Starbucks Workers United, which announced a $1 million fund to pay wages and benefits for striking workers. The tea leaves forecast this as a sure sign that the union is gearing up for more picket lines.
  • And we have confirmation: Starbucks workers in multiple states already went on strike after alleging unfair labor practices including reduced work hours at organized stores.

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