Starbucks and union agree to develop framework for contract negotiations


Starbucks and the union that represents employees at about 400 of its U.S. stores announced Tuesday that they were beginning discussions on a “fundamental framework” that would help the company reach labor agreements with unionized workers and resolve disputes between both sides.

The union hailed the development as a major shift in strategy for Starbucks, which has taken steps to resist union organizing at the company since the campaign began in 2021, moves that federal labor regulators say violate hundreds of labor laws. times.

Starbucks, which has denied the allegations, said in a statement that it hoped to negotiate and ratify contracts by the end of the year and would agree to a “fair organizing process,” something the union has demanded for years. He said that, as a gesture of good faith, he was giving union workers benefits that he introduced in 2022 but retained at union stores, such as an option for customers to tip via credit card.

Representatives from both Starbucks and the Workers United union said that while details need to be worked out, they hoped to return to the negotiating table in the coming weeks. Negotiations between both sides had largely failed in recent months.

Workers who helped lead the organization said the development had surprised them. “It still feels pretty surreal right now,” said Michelle Eisen, a former Starbucks barista in Buffalo, which was the first company-owned store to unionize during the current campaign. “There hasn’t been a single call that I’ve been on today that I wasn’t crying or everyone else wasn’t crying.”

If a framework that quickly leads to contracts is agreed upon, experts said, it could be a major breakthrough in labor relations at corporate America, where companies like Amazon and Apple have resisted union organizing to varying degrees.

“If Starbucks truly intends to respect workers’ right to organize, end the intimidation and harassment of pro-union workers, and engage in real good faith negotiations, this is a big step forward,” said John Logan , professor at San Francisco State University. University, an expert on how companies respond to union campaigns, in an email.

But Dr Logan said he wanted to withhold judgment on the framework’s value until details were available. “There are many reasons to be cautious: over the past two and a half years, the company has engaged in one of the most aggressive and illegal anti-union campaigns in modern history,” he said.

The change appears to have been driven by the company’s chief executive, Laxman Narasimhan, who took over almost a year ago.

Narasimhan’s predecessor, Howard Schultz, told The New York Times in 2022 that he couldn’t imagine ever embracing the union. He remains a large shareholder of Starbucks, but no longer serves on its board of directors.

Former executives who have spoken with Narasimhan have said he is less resistant to the union.

The company announced in December that it was looking to restart contract negotiations, and Narasimhan sent a conciliatory message shortly after indicating that the company wanted to improve its relationship with employees, whom it calls partners.

“Our goal next year is to further revitalize our member culture,” Narasimhan wrote, adding that “it’s time to re-sew the green apron fabric for all members.”

People on both sides said progress, including an agreement on broad principles, came during mediation last week to resolve claims between the union and the company.

Workers at more than 20 stores had filed petitions to unionize their stores one day last week (the most ever recorded in a single day, according to the union), reflecting the persistence of the campaign.

Discussions so far have not addressed a dissident campaign for three Starbucks board seats backed by a coalition of unions that includes Workers United’s parent company. Shareholders can vote on candidates until the company’s annual meeting in mid-March if a deal is not reached sooner, but the framework announcement could diminish the justification for a change in the eyes of many investors.

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