Starbucks workers protest

Protesters rally against Starbucks union-busting outside one of the global coffee chain's locations in Great Neck, New York on August 15, 2022.

(Photo: Thomas A. Ferrara/Newsday RM via Getty Images)

'A Massive Step': Starbucks Agrees to New Contract Talks With Union Workers

One labor expert and professor said it is "hard to overstate how big a deal this is."

U.S. labor advocates on Tuesday hailed an agreement between the Starbucks Workers United union and coffee giant to restart talks aimed at reaching a collective bargaining agreement after a two-and-a-half year impasse.

"Starbucks and Workers United have a shared commitment to establishing a positive relationship in the interests of Starbucks partners," the company and union said in a joint statement. "During mediation discussions last week for the ongoing brand and [intellectual property] litigation, it became clear that there was a constructive path forward on the broader issue of the future of organizing and collective bargaining at Starbucks."

The statement added that the two parties "have agreed to begin discussions on a foundational framework designed to achieve both collective bargaining agreements for represented stores and partners, and the resolution of litigation between the union and the company. This includes resolving litigation related to both the partner benefits announced in May 2022 and the use of the Starbucks brand."

Reacting to the news, More Perfect Unionsaid on social media: "Starbucks has been refusing to bargain with over 300 unionized stores. Now they seem to finally be conceding to the union. This is a massive step forward."

Eric Blanc, a labor expert and professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said it is "hard to overstate how big a deal this is."

"Relentless organizing by Starbucks Workers United has forced Starbucks to stop illegally denying benefits to union members and to start (it appears) bargaining a first contract in good faith," he added.

In what Starbucks called a "sign of good faith," the company agreed to offer approximately 10,000 employees in unionized stores higher wages and benefits it extended to nonunionized workers nearly two years ago, including the ability for customers to add tips to credit card payments.

Starbucks executive vice president and chief partner officer Sara Kelly said: "We have reached an important milestone. We have agreed with Workers United that we will begin discussions on a foundational framework designed to achieve collective bargaining agreements, including a fair process for organizing, and the resolution of some outstanding litigation."

"There is a lot of work ahead, but this is an important, positive step," Kelly added. "It is a clear demonstration of our intent to build a constructive relationship with Workers United in the interests of our partners. I want to acknowledge and appreciate the union's willingness to do the same."

While workers at nearly 400 Starbucks stores have voted to unionize, none have worked out contracts with the company.

Last week, baristas at 21 Starbucks stores in 14 states launched the largest single-day unionization drive in company history.

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