Starbucks Is Beginning To Change Its Position on Unions

( – Workers for many large companies take advantage of the opportunity to join a union as a means of securing the best benefits. It’s very common in the auto industry and education sector, for example, both of which experienced strikes this year. Now, one coffee company is starting to warm to the idea after being adamantly against it.

Unionizing Movement

For years, founder and former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz clashed with his employees over the idea of unionizing. The workers, however, pushed forward with the movement, which began in 2021, because they wanted to hold their superiors accountable and enact what they believed to be necessary changes.

Starbucks employees have a plethora of complaints, from their hourly wages and hours to the workplace conditions. Their meager paychecks, they say, don’t correspond to the company’s approach of calling them “partners.” Rather, they feel unappreciated and underpaid. The issues really came to the forefront when workers claimed the company failed to adequately implement safety precautions during the global pandemic. They allege Starbucks leadership rolled back restrictions too much, too soon.

In the face of those concerns, workers pushed to unionize, something that Schultz met with disdain. However, that seems to be changing with the new leadership and the slew of walkouts that have been happening over the past several months.

Softening Stance

In March, Laxman Narasimhan took over as CEO, and his approach widely differs from Schultz’s. He has a focus on caring for the staff that serves customers day in and day out, and that means softening on the position of unionizing.

Now, it seems to be full steam ahead for the coffee chain, in what analyst Nick Setyan is calling “capitulation.” However, with many workers walking out and affecting the company’s public image, it relented. Now, in a letter to Workers United dated December 8, Starbucks Vice President Sara Kelly asked to “resume bargaining at the earliest possible time” and suggested a January 2024 meeting date. In the correspondence, she asks that the two sides agree to several conditions for sitting down, including remaining professional, protecting the workplace culture Starbucks has instilled, and treating each other “with dignity and respect.”

It remains yet to be seen if the two sides can even come to an agreement. The workers’ union seems to think, according to its response, that it could be “a publicity move in the face of pressure from partners, Wall Street, shareholders, and others.”

A few stores have already publicly announced their plans to unionize.

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