Starbucks union asks company to negotiate national contract

The president of the union that organizes Starbucks stores has a message for the coffee chain: come to the bargaining table – and make it one table, not hundreds.

The Workers United union is trying to negotiate the first contracts for the more than 300 Starbucks locations that have formed unions since the end of 2021. But since those stores unionized one by one, the coffee chain has argued that each store should negotiate its own contract.

Lynne Fox, president of the union, told HuffPost that workers want to solidify the talks so they can start making progress toward an agreement. Workers have achieved nothing with the company even though many unionized more than a year ago, she said.

“The fastest way to do that is in a national setting at a table and simultaneously negotiating these universal issues,” she said.

Fox said Starbucks should agree to a broad contract that sets a national minimum wage, “fair scheduling” procedures, guaranteed minimum hours and an agreement for upcoming union elections, among other provisions. Regions and individual stores could then add additional agreements if they wish.

But Starbucks said Workers United should stick to negotiating individual contracts since the union organizes stores one by one.

“This is a deliberate attempt to distract from Workers United’s failure or inability to negotiate for nearly 300 unique stores when they were successful in litigating and enforcing Starbucks,” said Andrew Trull, a spokesman for the company, in an email. He said the company has made progress on a contract with single-store workers in Pennsylvania who joined the Teamsters last year.

None of the roughly 9,000 US stores owned by Starbucks had union representation until Workers United began organizing them in 2021. As groundbreaking as the election victories were, the hardest part was always negotiating a first contract. On average, it takes a new union well over a year to negotiate one, and in many cases unions never succeed due to litigation and employer delays.

“I am so proud of these workers. I really admire them. I think they are shocked that the company they love treats them so violently.

– Lynne Fox, President of Workers United

National Labor Relations Board prosecutors have charged Starbucks with a litany of unfair labor practice charges, including refusing to bargain with workers at 163 stores. The NLRB board in Washington has already ruled a case that Starbucks illegally refused to negotiate with workers at its Reserve Roastery in Seattle. Prosecutors also say the company broke the law by insisting workers bargain in person, rather than with a Zoom option as the union proposed.

“They didn’t accept any of our proposals, or counter any of our proposals,” Fox said. “The company received 15 of our main proposals for seven months. They didn’t sign a single line or sentence or contradict anything.

Starbucks said it offered “more than 423 single-store bargaining sessions,” but the union had set preconditions for those meetings, such as remote bargaining for workers, that the company would not agree to. The company argues that trading on Zoom is equivalent to recording the sessions.

″[W]We believe that in-person negotiation is not only required by federal law, but will achieve the best results for our partners,” Starbucks said.

On Tuesday, Fox sent a letter to Starbucks General Counsel Zabrina Jenkins calling on the company to take a national settlement seriously. “Starbucks has used increasingly outrageous delaying tactics that amounted to an unacceptable repudiation of your 8,000 workers’ right to negotiate a contract,” she wrote.

Fox noted that in recent Senate testimony, former CEO Howard Schultz said negotiating so many contracts at once created “significant complications and hurdles in the collective bargaining process. “.

Schultz blamed the union for the problem, noting that Workers United called for store-by-store elections, rather than on a regional basis, as Starbucks was proposing. The union would have been less likely to win larger elections because it would have diluted its support in stores that were strongholds.

“We now need to be able to negotiate individual stores one by one across the country and set up individual meetings,” Schultz lamented.

But Starbucks doesn’t have to negotiate the contracts separately — it could negotiate them nationally to speed up the process and reduce the number of attorneys involved. He chose not to.

“I can only speculate [as to Starbucks’ motives], but I guess it’s to deliberately complicate the process and lengthen the process,” Fox told HuffPost. “If you want to negotiate in good faith, that’s not the way you do it.”

Starbucks employees strike outside a store in Brooklyn on November 17, 2022.

ANGELA WEISS via Getty Images

In reality, a company in Starbucks’ position has little incentive to strike a deal that could encourage more stores to get organized. Employers can drag out the process to undermine the broader union effort and make workers believe that organizing would be a waste of time. It is illegal for an employer to bargain in “bad faith”, but the penalties for doing so are notoriously low.

Trull insisted the company negotiated in good faith from the start. “We remain committed and ready to negotiate in person,” he said.

The union’s influence with Starbucks grows with every store it organizes — Workers United has won 315 elections, or 81% of those held, according to the NLRB — increasing the chances the union will force Starbucks to a single table negotiation to reach an agreement. But the pace of unionization has slowed since early 2022, and the union will have to work to hang on to the stores it has already organised.

Workers at three unionized stores in New York City recently filed petitions to hold decertification votes to purge the union from those workplaces, though it’s not clear these efforts will go anywhere. Or. This is another incentive for employers to block a contract – the workforce rotates and union supporters are replaced by union opponents.

Fox said the union anticipated such fights early on.

“It was, I’m sure, part of the grand plan,” she said of Starbucks. “For people to leave, there would be turnover, or people just couldn’t make a living and would have to leave to find other jobs. We are prepared for this.

NLRB prosecutors have filed 94 lawsuits against Starbucks, accusing the company of unlawfully firing union supporters, closing stores where workers were organizing and denying union workers raises, among other allegations.

So far, administrative judges have ruled that Starbucks broke the law in at least 14 separate cases.

“I am so proud of these workers. I really admire them. I think they’re shocked that the company they love is treating them so harshly,” Fox said. “Starbucks could have used this moment to really be the industry leader and to really value its employees, and they just chose not to.”

The Huffington Gt

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