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Demonstrators protest Starbucks union-busting

Demonstrators hold signs while protesting in front of a Starbucks shop on April 14, 2022 in New York City. (Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Starbucks Workers Urge Congress to Grill CEO Howard Schultz on Union-Busting

"Starbucks has conducted an unprecedented, aggressive anti-union campaign of harassment, captive audience meetings, and illegal firings," reads a new letter signed by 24 Starbucks workers.

Jake Johnson

A group of two dozen Starbucks workers is calling on the Democratic-controlled House labor committee to seek testimony from billionaire CEO Howard Schultz on the coffee company's relentless—and, according to employees and organizers, blatantly unlawful—efforts to crush unionization drives at shops across the United States.

In a letter dated April 15 and first publicized Monday by the progressive media outlet More Perfect Union, 24 Starbucks employees from Arizona and California urged Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) to use his "authority as chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor" to "invite Howard Schultz to appear before your committee and answer to this behavior and disregard for federal labor law."

"It now appears that Starbucks is doubling down on a deeply anti-worker, illegal set of practices across the country."

The letter was also signed by Lynne Fox, the president of Workers United, a Service Employees International Union (SEIU) affiliate that is vying to organize Starbucks locations nationwide.

"Since the first elections in Buffalo in late 2021, Starbucks has conducted an unprecedented, aggressive anti-union campaign of harassment, captive audience meetings, and illegal firings of union leaders and supporters," the letter notes, pointing to the National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) formal complaint last month alleging that Starbucks illegally retaliated against two Phoenix employees for working to organize their shop.

"This past week, the NLRB has advised us that they have found merit that Starbucks unlawfully fired six of seven members of the workers' organizing committee in Memphis," the letter continues. "The company fired this group known as 'the Memphis 7' to spread fear of organizing at Starbucks stores across the nation. Many similar cases remain pending across the country."

The workers, who also alleged "consistent surveillance" by Starbucks management and the company's anti-union law firm, delivered their letter to Scott last week following a string of union election victories in Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts—wins that brought the total number of unionized Starbucks shops in the U.S. to 20.

According to organizers, more than 200 Starbucks locations across the country have filed for union elections with the NLRB, and additional applications are flowing in on a daily basis.

"In the face of clear and consistent evidence of support for the union from partners in store after store," the workers wrote to Scott, "it now appears that Starbucks is doubling down on a deeply anti-worker, illegal set of practices across the country."

Last week, workers at several Starbucks locations walked off the job to protest hour cuts and other anti-union tactics that the company's management is pursuing as organizing victories mount.

Schultz, an experienced executive with a long anti-union track record, was brought back as Starbucks' CEO on an interim basis earlier this month, a move that workers characterized as part of the company's effort to blunt organizing momentum.

During a town hall with Starbucks employees on April 4, the day he began his third stint as CEO, Schultz claimed that U.S. companies are "being assaulted" by union drives and made clear that he is going to fight attempts to organize Starbucks shops.

"My job in coming back to Starbucks is to ensure the fact that we, the collective we, co-create, reimagine a new Starbucks with our partners at the center of it all," Schultz declared. "As a pro-partner company. A company that does not need someone in between us and our people."

In their new letter, the Starbucks workers argued that "the recent re-appointment of Howard Schultz as interim CEO sends a clear signal to partners."

"We are well aware of his anti-union posture and actions over the decades. Howard Schultz himself came to Buffalo in November of 2021 to try to bust our union," they wrote. "Howard Schultz told one co-worker during an anti-union 'listening session' last week that if they 'hated' Starbucks then why don't they find another job. We don't hate Starbucks. Lexi Rizzo, a 24-year-old partner with almost 7 years at the company spoke for us when she said, 'We fight for what we love.'"

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