“Cautiously optimistic” | Starbucks resumes bargaining as wave of unionized stores demand better pay, staffing, & safety

Starbucks resumes bargaining as wave of unionized stores demand better pay, staffing, & safety

Starbucks has resumed bargaining with unionized stores in the hopes of securing improved wages, worker-friendly staffing and scheduling, and better health and safety provisions.

The world’s largest coffee chain began negotiations with union leaders on Wednesday and Thursday after eventually announcing an agreement with Workers United in February.

“Starbucks and Workers United have a shared commitment to establishing a positive relationship in the interests of Starbucks partners,” said the coffee chain and the union in a shared statement at the time.

It has been a drawn-out process for both sides since the first US Starbucks store was unionized in Buffalo, New York, during December 2021.

Since 2021, over 425 stores have voted to unionize across 43 states, representing over 10,500 workers.

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In that time, hundreds of Starbucks staff have filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), ranging from retaliation and harassment to intimidation and union busting.

Starbucks has consistently denied the charges but has retained a union avoidance law firm, Littler Mendelson.

The agreement in February opened the door for a wave of further stores to file for unionization, with workers feeling more confident to organize without the pressure from Starbucks’ corporate team.

What are Starbucks employees seeking?

Speaking to the Guardian, one barista at a store in Santa Clara, California – a store that voted to unionize this month – said fair scheduling and improved staffing are the key issues that workers hope to fix through the freshly resumed negotiations.

“The whole point of the union is to make positive changes within the company, so I think the company deciding to work together with the union is a great sign of progress,” they explained.

Another barista at a unionized store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, told the Guardian that despite initial skepticism over the agreement between Starbucks and Workers United, she feels “cautiously optimistic.”

“Us workers, the baristas, the shift supervisors, we are Starbucks. Starbucks calls us partners, so treat us like partners,” they said. “We believe in Starbucks. We love our jobs. We love coming to work. We’re grateful for the benefits Starbucks has given us, and the reason why we’re doing this is because we love our jobs.”

430 workers, each representing a unionized store, are meeting with Starbucks representatives in the hope of reaching improved staffing and scheduling, but also aim to thresh out improvements to wages, health and safety, and access to healthcare.

“Starbucks and Workers United remain committed to building a positive, productive relationship,” a statement from Starbucks reads. “We respect our partners’ rights to organize and on progressing negotiations towards ratified store contracts this year.”

The spokesperson noted to the Guardian that they expect the bargaining to deliver “further progress on the framework intended to be the foundation of each single-store contract.”

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