Starbucks Accused of Union Busting as it Announces New Benefits

Corporate opposition to the unionization efforts at Starbucks continued this week. As CEO Howard Schultz announced in an earnings call yesterday, Starbucks will be committing $1 billion during the fiscal year 2022 to “additional investments in partners and stores for prioritized areas” including increased pay and training. The company first announced in October that it would be raising wages to at least $15 per hour in the summer of 2022, hitting an average pay of nearly $17 per hour for all hourly partners in the United States in the same period. But while yesterday’s call outlined the company’s raise and benefit plans more clearly, it also stated — as some speculated last month — that many of them won’t be extended to unionized stores or stores in the process of unionizing.

Yesterday’s announcement specified that the aforementioned wage increases will be effective August 1, with anyone hired on or before May 2 receiving “either a 3 percent raise or $15/hour, whichever is higher.” In addition, it made clear the raise scale for “tenured partners” with over two and five years with the company, and called out that the company will “double [its] planned investments” in raises for manager positions on August 1. The announcement also mentioned a growth of benefits options, including “opportunities to increase sick time accrual” and “tools and solutions to help partners refinance better student loan solutions” — all of which would be limited to stores that do not unionize.

In response to the announcement, Starbucks Workers United said in a statement: “This threat is blatantly unlawful and a continuation of the union-busting campaign. Starbucks is permitted by law to offer these benefits to workers at unionized stores. Our bargaining committees will demand that these modest improvements be given immediately to all the partners, and ultimately Howard Schultz’ union-busting maneuvers will not work. Starbucks will be a unionized company, where partners have a seat at the table.” The union has filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board.

Since the announcement of the first Starbucks union in Buffalo, New York in December, unionization efforts at the coffee chain have quickly gained momentum. Yesterday, Starbucks Workers United announced that with the Mt. Auburn location in Watertown, Massachusetts, it hit 50 unionized stores nationwide. Amid these successes, Schultz continues to maintain an anti-union stance: Just last month, he reportedly confronted an organizer and said, “If you hate Starbucks so much, why don’t you go somewhere else?”