Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

There are only a few days left in our critical Mid-Year Campaign and we truly might not make it without your help.
Please join us. If you rely on independent media, support Common Dreams today. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaks onstage at the New York Times DealBook D.C. policy forum on June 9, 2022 in Washington, D.C.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaks onstage at the New York Times DealBook D.C. policy forum on June 9, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for the New York Times)

Critics Say Starbucks CEO Just Declared 'Permanent War' Against Union

Billionaire Howard Schultz's vow to never negotiate in good faith with Starbucks Workers United may violate federal labor law.

Kenny Stancil

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz made it clear Thursday that he does not intend to hold good-faith negotiations with Starbucks Workers United—the union that has won elections at more than 140 coffee shops nationwide since December—potentially exposing the corporation to a fresh legal fight with the National Labor Relations Board.

When asked by Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times if he could ever see himself "embracing the union," Schultz responded tersely: "No."

"The customer experience," the billionaire claimed during a live interview, will be degraded "if a third party is integrated into our business."

As Jordan Zakarin of More Perfect Union reported Friday, Schultz's comment "marks a significant and potentially illegal shift in the company's public statements about its relationship" with Starbucks Workers United.

"Schultz's statement could run afoul of the National Labor Relations Act, which requires a constructive approach from employers when its workers vote to form a union," Zakarin noted. "The law demands that during collective bargaining, employers must 'confer in good faith with respect to wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.'"

He continued:

Up to this point, Starbucks executives have been careful to insist that the company would bargain in good faith—often in those exact terms.

In December, immediately following the union's first victories in Buffalo, Rossann Williams, Starbucks president for North America, stated in a public letter that "we will bargain in good faith with the union that represents partners in the one Buffalo store that voted in favor of union representation."

Similar statements, from Schultz, Williams, and spokespersons for the company, have been made regularly for the past seven months.

Veteran labor journalist Steven Greenhouse responded to the interview by saying that Schultz in his remarks "seems to declare permanent war against the union."

"Schultz sounds so hugely anti-union," Greenhouse continued, "that he seems totally willing to refuse to cooperate in any way whatsoever with the union to help make Starbucks a better company and serve its customers better."

"If I were a Starbucks shareholder," he added, "this refusal to work with the union would worry me."

Greenhouse also pointed out the hypocrisy of Schultz's derogatory reference to the union as a "third party."

Referring to high-level company executives and the union-busting law firm hired by Schultz to fend off worker organizing, Greenhouse said that "Starbucks didn't call the dozens of managers and $500-an-hour Littler Mendelson lawyers it flew to Buffalo from out of town a 'third party.'"

Peter Certo of the Institute for Policy Studies, meanwhile, responded to Schultz's comments by issuing a caustic reminder that "Hillary Clinton was going to make this man her labor secretary."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Jan. 6 Panel Subpoenas Trump White House Counsel Pat Cipollone

Noting his refusal to cooperate beyond an informal April interview, the committee's chair said that "we are left with no choice."

Jessica Corbett ·


Sanders Pushes Back Against AIPAC Super PAC With Endorsements of Tlaib and Levin

"Once again, these extremists are pouring millions of dollars into a congressional race to try to ensure the Democratic Party advances the agenda of powerful corporations and the billionaire class."

Brett Wilkins ·


Missouri Hospital System Resumes Providing Plan B After 'Shameful' Ban

The health network had stopped offering emergency contraception over fears of violating the state's abortion law—a "dangerous" move that critics warned could become a national trend.

Jessica Corbett ·


'An Act of Conquest': Native Americans Condemn SCOTUS Tribal Sovereignty Ruling

"Every few paragraphs of the majority opinion has another line that dismissively and casually cuts apart tribal independence that Native ancestors gave their lives for," observed one Indigenous law professor.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Lunacy': Democrats Risk Running Out of Time to Confirm Federal Judges

"Democrats aren't filling open seats right now in federal district courts because, for unfathomable reasons, they are letting red state senators block nominees," said one critic.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo