Last year, then-Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz declared that the coffee chain would bump up the pay of its non-union team members to $15 an hour. However, he said that Starbucks couldn't offer the same raises to employees of stores that chose to unionize as the move would need to be part of negotiations between Starbucks and the employee union, Starbucks Workers United (SWU). Recently, a federal judge recently ordered Starbucks to match pay raises and benefits given to non-union employees across the board regardless of union membership.
The judgment orders Starbucks to increase the pay of union employees to match their non-union colleagues as well as issue them lump sum payments reflecting the money they would have earned since the company's policy went into effect in August 2022. Union employees will also be afforded the same non-monetary perks that others have received, including more flexibility in their uniforms, increased leave for illnesses, and broader access to supervisors in regard to career advancement. For its part, Starbucks plans to appeal the ruling, claiming that they have merely been complying with rules governing labor negotiations.
Starbucks' Anti-Union History
Starbucks has long been under fire for what many see as blatant attempts to prevent or dissuade employees from joining unions. Currently, 358 of Starbucks' over 16,000 U.S. stores have voted to unionize with 81 deciding not to join SWU. Of the labor violations that have been reported to the NLRB, some of the most egregious include firing union organizers, shuttering union stores, and attempting to have the police break up lawful union organizing and information meetings among employees.
Howard Schultz testified before the Senate's Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee in March of 2023, the same month he stepped down from his interim CEO position after a lengthy tenure. He was grilled on the specifics of the anti-union accusations brought against Starbucks and unequivocally denied any wrongdoing. Schultz sparred with Vermont Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders, long a defender of workers' rights, over the allegations, claiming from the outset that Starbucks respects workers regardless of their union affiliation. But, he added that "the company has a right to have a preference" regarding unions, saying that Starbucks wants to "maintain the direct relationship we've had with our employees, who we call partners."
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