Hundreds of Progressive Groups Back Starbucks Union Push as New CEO Arrives
"Instead of continuing on the current path Starbucks has taken, we urge you to create and build a healthy working relationship with unionized partners."
A progressive coalition representing 62 million people and nearly 500 member organizations on Tuesday urged new Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan to end the coffee giant's hostility toward unioned workers and organizers across the United States.
Since workers in Buffalo, New York won a historic election to form Starbucks' first U.S. union in December 2021, employees at hundreds of locations throughout the nation have started organizing—and have been met with union-busting tactics from the company.
Ahead of Schultz's testimony, the HELP Committee released a report pointing to dozens of National Labor Relations Board complaints against Starbucks and explaining that "though the coffee giant claims they are a 'progressive' company, there is mounting evidence that the $113 billion-dollar company's anti-union efforts include a pattern of flagrant violations of federal labor law."
In their Tuesday letter, civil rights, environmental, gender justice, and labor groups wrote to Narasimhan, "It's our hope that you uphold Starbucks' reputation as an inclusive and welcoming third place for the community by taking this opportunity to redefine the company's relationship with Starbucks partners working in cafes, reserve stores, and roasteries across the country."
"While our organizations represent many facets of the progressive movement, we know our fights are inextricably linked to that of Starbucks Workers United."
"We stand by workers exercising their fundamental and constitutional right to form a union," the progressive coalition emphasized. "Freedom of association is a constitutional right, and by joining together to bargain collectively with employers, unions give workers the opportunity to have their voices heard and help make decisions to make meaningful changes in their workplaces."
"Unions are good for workers, businesses, our economy, and our democracy," the coalition continued. "They are vehicles that advance equity across class, race, sexual orientation, gender, and immigration status. While our organizations represent many facets of the progressive movement, we know our fights are inextricably linked to that of Starbucks Workers United. We cannot have justice—racial, gender, immigrant, climate—without economic justice."
The letter concludes by highlighting how Narasimhan can chart a new path: "Instead of continuing on the current path Starbucks has taken, we urge you to create and build a healthy working relationship with unionized partners. We encourage you to affirm workers' legal right to organize a union by signing the fair elections principles and by committing to bargain in good faith with over 7,500 workers who have formed Starbucks Workers United."
Signatories include the AFL-CIO, American Federation of Teachers, Communications Workers of America, Community Change Action, Center for Popular Democracy, Greenpeace, MoveOn, National Education Association, People's Action, Public Citizen, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Sierra Club, Sunrise Movement, UltraViolet, United We Dream, and Women's March.
"Starbucks has repeatedly, shamelessly, and illegally stood in the way of partners who are demanding a voice in their workplace and a strong contract to build a better future for themselves and their families," said SEIU international president Mary Kay Henry. "Narasimhan has an opportunity to stop the company's unprecedented, unpopular campaign of union-busting and instead partner with its workers and their union to build a Starbucks that truly lives up to its stated progressive values."
\u201cIt's a new day.\n\n@Starbucks has a new CEO, and a fresh chance at striking a new tone with workers!\n\nWe're thrilled to see dozens of groups supporting workers, and we too stand with @SBWorkersUnited. \n\nTell Starbucks you do too: https://t.co/eHu6ZalRT3\u201d— Fight For 15 (@Fight For 15) 1681219847
AFL-CIO president Liz Shuler pointed out that "Starbucks has always referred to its employees as partners" and "under new leadership, the company now has the chance to treat its workers like partners."
Community Change president Dorian Warren noted that Narasimhan could "set a powerful example for corporate America by committing to bargain in good faith with the thousands of workers who make his company's success possible."
"The importance of organizing can never be overstated," Warren added. "We are proud to support the Starbucks workers who are forming unions, and asking for higher wages, better benefits, and more control over their workplace conditions. We cannot forget that unions are one of the most important tools we have to protect and strengthen our democracy and build equity for all."
Group leaders also stressed that they represent millions of members and massive movements that support unionization efforts at Starbucks.
"Women's March unites with Starbucks workers—a workforce that is more than 70% women and women of color—as they organize tirelessly to take on the challenges they face in their workplace," said executive director Rachel Carmona. "This is not just a matter of fairness and justice—but a women's rights issue."
MoveOn executive director Rahna Epting declared that "Starbucks' record to date on unions has been distasteful, disrespectful, and disingenuous."
"Millions of members of MoveOn support workers' rights and want Starbucks to do right by the people who work for your company," she told the new CEO. "Your partners should be able to exercise their rights to freely and fairly organize and negotiate over their working conditions without fear of retaliation."