Many of us cannot face the day ahead until we have had our morning caffeine fix, and Starbucks is a popular place to get one. While the coffee chain giant has long been known for its generous employee benefits and positive workplace culture, some baristas in Buffalo, New York, recently organised the first union at a corporate-owned Starbucks location. Employees cited a variety of issues, including understaffing.
Starbucks will be required to sit down and negotiate in good faith a collective bargaining agreement covering the terms and conditions of those workers’ employment following the union’s recent election victory. Believe it or not, changes to how and what you can order at a unionised café may be on the horizon, depending on the terms negotiated.
Typically, labour agreements cover wages, insurance benefits, grievance and arbitration procedures, workplace policies, and a variety of other employment-related issues. Employer and union negotiate specific language for each of the terms and then those terms take precedence. For instance, if a company agrees in a collective bargaining agreement to maintain a minimum staffing level for a shift, a union may file a grievance seeking damages if the employer does not maintain the minimum staffing level. This is typically not a concern in a non-union setting due to the absence of a grievance and arbitration procedure.
Limits on coffee orders are one item that may be of interest to coffee drinkers if it comes up during negotiations. Baristas in Buffalo cited burnout as a result of the high volume of mobile orders that allow customers to order drinks and food in advance and then pick them up at the café. The workers believed the volume was unmanageable. Custom orders – such as a latte made with non-fat milk, two pumps of vanilla, one pump of mocha, and precisely two ice cubes – have also been a source of frustration for baristas. The union may propose a cap on the number of mobile orders a barista must accept per hour, as well as additional restrictions on the number of speciality modifications that can be made to a drink. In other words, you may be unable to place a mobile order at the time and location of your choosing or to receive all of the customizations you desire if ordering from a location covered by such an agreement. That is not to say that Starbucks must (or will) agree to those proposals, but given the employee complaints we’ve seen, it’s likely to be a point of contention at the bargaining table – and thus a provision like this could make its way into a labour agreement.