Union Drive Has Starbucks in Turmoil

Ideas and Issues Unions

            New Orleans       The CEO of Starbucks has announced his resignation effective almost immediately.  On an interim basis co-founder and former CEO Harold Schultz, hoping the third time is the charm, given his earlier stints in the corner office, has been designated to take over until a permanent hire can be made.  Starbucks says the resignation was not prompted by the union drives, which almost certainly means that in fact it was prompted by the union drives.

Trillion Asset Management and a coalition of about 75 other investors with the New York Comptroller, representing about one-billion in investment in Starbucks, had called on the company to adopt a policy of neutrality towards the union organizing, which is exactly what the union has been asking Starbucks to implement.  It seems hardly coincidental that the NLRB issued yet another complaint against Starbucks for its firing of two of the workers involved in organizing the union in Phoenix at almost the same time.  There are reportedly more than 100 pending petitions for union elections in the giant chain.  That might be small compared to the more than 6000 of the 9000 locations that are unorganized, but it’s not a good look.

The new boss won’t be much different than the old boss, since Schultz, as executive chairmen of the board, has also appeared at captive audience meetings with the workers in places like Buffalo.  His position has not been pro-union.  He is one of those one-big-happy-family types, as he managed to pocket billions.  The company is clearly in turmoil, so from the union’s perspective, there’s blood in the water, so if they can turn on more heat, then now’s the time.

The company has announced that this summer to deal with staffing issues, they will be hiring at between $15 and $23 per hour.  They may claim the raises are a response to staff shortages, but it is equally clear that they are hoping that wages will take some of the steam out of the union drive.

Some reporters argue that in talking to workers, they think the issue of voice in the workplace is more of an issue than money.  The company likely understands that the workers don’t want just voice, but power, and that is unlikely to be surrendered without a lot more organizing and a much longer fight.

Nonetheless, the union has the company on their back foot, so that means it’s time for more pushing.