Starbucks Resumes Bargaining With Union After Two Sides Thaw Relationship

Starbucks and its barista union are set to resume contract negotiations on Wednesday, ending a prolonged stalemate. The move follows their February announcement of a constructive path forward during mediation discussions over the union’s use of Starbucks’ branding. This marks a significant shift for Starbucks, which had spent two years fighting against Workers United and the broader movement to unionize its cafes.

Starbucks and the union, affiliated with the Service Employees International Union, have previously met to bargain but ended in a stalemate. Both sides have accused each other of sabotaging the talks. Store agreements will be negotiated and ratified separately, but the union might make proposals that could affect all Starbucks workers it represents. Workers United has pushed for higher wages and more consistent scheduling among other priorities.

Labor laws do not require that both employers and unions reach a collective bargaining agreement, only that both bargain in good faith. After a year, workers who lose faith in the union can petition to decertify, putting a ticking clock on negotiations. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has 19 pending petitions to decertify, while the labor board has denied 18 other petitions.

The resumption of contract negotiations comes a day after Starbucks appeared before the Supreme Court to appeal a lower court’s approval of an injunction sought by the NLRB to reinstate seven fired workers at a Memphis cafe. Experts have said that the Supreme Court’s eventual ruling could weaken the NLRB and organized labor.

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