Howard Schultz playing what cards he has to fend off unionized labor
Howard Schultz is looking to play the FOMO card with baristas who are thinking about voting to join the Starbucks United union.
In an online meeting with this week, Mr. Schultz told store leaders that the company was looking at expanding its benefits package to recruit new workers and retain current ones. He also mentioned that unionized stores would not be eligible for these improved benefits since it would be against federal law for Starbucks to unilaterally change union members’ compensation, which can only be done through the organized labor process.
Mr. Schultz said that workers who have voted for union representation didn’t understand this reality or understand how paying dues would affect their income.
The Wall Street Journal, which broke the story, said that Mr. Schultz and Starbucks had not given details on the expanded benefits planned or timing for their implementation.
Cathy Creighton, director of the Cornell University ILR Buffalo Co-Lab and former attorney at the National Labor Relations Board, said that Mr. Schultz was engaged in “a union avoidance technique” and that the company was not legally prevented from asking the union if its members would accept the change in benefits.
Mr. Schultz’s return earlier this month as CEO of Starbucks started off with a letter to stakeholders announcing that the company was immediately suspending a planned share buyback program to allow it to “invest more profit into our people and our stores — the only way to create long-term value for all stakeholders.”
He pledged to get out in the field and to speak directly with associates to understand their concerns with an eye of improving relations with workers.
The Long Beach Post reported that at least one of those meetings did not go according to plan with baristas saying they felt disrespected by Mr. Schultz.
The workers wrote in a letter to Mr. Schultz, “During the holiday season we were constantly expected to work short staffed which led to closers staying 30 minutes or even hours after their shift ended. Shift supervisors are struggling to fit in their breaks because they don’t want to abandon their baristas. And even as our hours are being cut and our income is being threatened, we show up every day and do our best to provide the Starbucks experience. Yesterday you asked one of us, ‘If you hate Starbucks so much, why don’t you work somewhere else?’ And to that we say, why leave Starbucks when we can make it better.”
- Starbucks Prepares to Expand Worker Benefits That Might Exclude Unionized Staff – The Wall Street Journal
- Tense meeting with Starbucks CEO triggers 2nd Long Beach store to seek to unionize – Long Beach Post
- Did Howard Schultz make a wise course correction on his first day back at Starbucks? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is Starbucks taking the proper approach in its attempt to fend off unionizing activity in the chain’s stores? Do workers have legitimate gripes when it comes to working conditions at the chain?