Starbucks and union agree to develop framework for contract negotiations

Starbucks and union agree to develop framework for contract negotiations

Starbucks and union agree to develop framework for contract negotiations

Starbucks and the union that represents employees at about 400 of its U.S. stores announced Tuesday that they are beginning discussions on a “fundamental framework” that would help the company reach labor agreements with union workers and to resolve disputes between the two parties.

The union hailed the development as a major shift in strategy for Starbucks, which has taken steps to resist unionization at the company since the campaign began in 2021, steps that federal labor regulators say violated labor laws hundreds of times.

Starbucks, which has denied the accusations, said in a statement that it hoped the contracts would be negotiated and ratified by the end of the year and that it would agree to a “fair unionization process” – which the union been asking for years. It said that, as a gesture of good faith, it was offering union workers benefits that it introduced in 2022 but was holding in unionized stores, such as the ability for customers to tip by credit card. credit.

Representatives from Starbucks and the Workers United union said that while the details needed to be worked out, they hoped to be back at the negotiating table in the coming weeks. Negotiations between the two parties have largely failed in recent months.

Workers who helped lead the recruitment said the development surprised them. “It still feels pretty surreal right now,” said Michelle Eisen, a longtime barista at a Starbucks in Buffalo that was the first company-owned store to unionize during the current campaign. “There wasn’t a single call today where I wasn’t crying or everyone wasn’t crying.”

Experts say if a framework is agreed upon and results in contracts quickly, it could lead to greater development of labor relations in corporate America, where companies like Amazon and Apple have resisted unionization to varying degrees.

“If Starbucks truly intends to respect workers’ rights to organize, end its intimidation and harassment of pro-union workers, and engage in real good faith negotiations, this is a huge step forward,” said John Logan, a professor at San Francisco State University. academic who is an expert on how businesses respond to union campaigns, said in an email.

But Dr Logan said he wanted to withhold judgment on the value of the framework until the details were available. “There are many reasons to be cautious: Over the past two and a half years, the company has engaged in one of the most aggressive and illegal anti-union campaigns in modern history,” he said. -he declares.

The move appears to have been driven by the company’s chief executive, Laxman Narasimhan, who took over almost a year ago.

Mr. Narasimhan’s predecessor, Howard Schultz, told The New York Times in 2022 that he could not imagine ever embracing the union. He remains a significant shareholder of Starbucks but is no longer on its board of directors.

Former executives who spoke with Mr. Narasimhan said he was less resistant to the union.

The company announced in December that he was seeking to restart contract negotiations, and Mr. Narasimhan sent a conciliatory message shortly after indicating that the company wanted to improve its relations with its employees, whom it calls partners.

“Our goal next year is to further reinvigorate our partnership culture,” Mr. Narasimhan wrote, adding that “it is time to stitch up the fabric of the green apron for all partners.”

People on both sides said the breakthrough — including agreement on broad principles — came during last week’s mediation to resolve disputes between the union and company.

Workers at more than 20 stores filed petitions to unionize their stores one day last week – the never again in one dayaccording to the union – reflecting the persistence of the campaign.

Discussions so far have not addressed the breakaway campaign for three seats on Starbucks’ board, backed by a coalition of unions that includes Workers United’s parent company. Shareholders can vote on the nominees until the company votes. annual meeting by mid-March if no compromise is reached before then, but the announcement of the framework could diminish the justification for a change in the eyes of many investors.