Starbucks union asks coffee giant to extend pay hikes, benefits to unionized stores

On Monday, pay raises will go into effect at Starbucks cafes across the United States. Labor organizers have asked the coffee giant to extend the benefits to unionized stores without negotiating.

Starbucks announced in May that it would increase wages for employees and add other benefits, such as credit card tipping, by the end of the year. However, the Seattle-based coffee chain stated that it would not offer the enhanced benefits to unionized store employees because such changes require negotiation.

Workers United stated in a letter to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz obtained by CNBC that the company can legally offer benefits to unionized store employees without bargaining as long as the union agrees. The letter mentions other company-wide benefits announced in recent months, such as faster sick leave accrual and reimbursement of medical travel expenses for employees seeking abortions or gender-affirming care.

Starbucks Workers United t-shirts are displayed outside a Starbucks location in the Brookline neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, on Tuesday, July 19, 2022, as unionized workers protest unfair labor practices.

Lynne Fox, the president of Workers United, stated in a letter to Schultz last month, “Workers United refuses to stand by while Starbucks cynically promises new benefits only to non-unionized workers and denies them to our members.”

The letter states that the union is not waiving any additional bargaining rights Starbucks has under federal law.

According to the National Labor Relations Board, approximately 200 Starbucks locations have voted to unionize, while 40 have not. In the United States, Starbucks has roughly 9,000 locations.

Starbucks cited a fact sheet on its website in response to the union’s request: “The law is clear: once a store unionizes, no changes to benefits are permitted without good faith collective bargaining.”

According to the company’s website, workers have access to the benefits that were in place at the time the union petition was filed, but any subsequent changes to wages, benefits, and working conditions must be negotiated.

The case could end up before an administrative law judge at the National Labor Relations Board, according to labor attorneys.

“Once a union has been certified, an employer is required to bargain with that union before making changes to employment terms and conditions,” said Stephen Holroyd, a lawyer at Jennings Sigmond who has represented unions and worked for the NLRB.

However, he stated that the union’s approval of the benefits without bargaining modifies the situation and that the union could argue that Starbucks is withholding the benefits due to its organizing campaign.

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