Starbucks has announced its intention to resume contract negotiations with the union that represents its baristas. It has been two years since the first unionization of company-owned Starbucks cafes in the United States, a milestone that has seen over 360 locations vote to unionize. This accounts for approximately 4% of the company’s total US company-owned footprint. However, despite the successful unionization efforts, no locations have yet reached a contract agreement with the company.
A Window to Resolve the Stalemate
The potential restart of talks between Starbucks and the barista union could potentially open a window of opportunity to resolve one of the most high-profile labor disputes in recent US history. The employees have been pushing for higher pay and the resolution of what they believe is understaffing at cafes, among other demands. While labor laws do not require both parties to reach a collective bargaining agreement, they do mandate that both sides bargain in good faith.
After a year of negotiations, workers who lose faith in the union can petition to decertify, putting a ticking clock on the negotiations. At least 19 locations have already filed petitions to decertify with the National Labor Relations Board. However, seven petitions have been dismissed due to rulings that Starbucks violated federal labor laws.
Starbucks and the union, Starbucks Workers United, initiated talks over a year ago, but the negotiations have been challenging. Both parties have accused each other of failing to bargain in good faith. Starbucks has insisted on face-to-face negotiations and has not allowed representatives to appear via Zoom. The union, on the other hand, believes that Starbucks is using this as a stalling tactic.
Sara Kelly, Starbucks’ chief partner officer, wrote a letter to Lynne Fox, the President of Workers United International, expressing the need to restart negotiations. In the letter, Kelly outlined several conditions, including no audio or video recording or feeds during the negotiations. Starbucks hopes to begin talks again in January with a representative set of stores.
Starbucks Workers United acknowledged receiving the letter and stated that they are reviewing it. They also expressed their willingness to meet with Starbucks, emphasizing that any initiative that pushes the bargaining process forward in a positive manner is welcome.
In November, Starbucks workers conducted their largest-ever labor action by staging a walkout at more than 200 stores on Red Cup Day, which is one of the busiest days of the year for the chain. The strike led to one significant change that baristas had requested – the ability to turn off mobile orders during busy promotion days. However, Starbucks clarified that this change to its mobile ordering system was already underway before the strike took place.
Starbucks is aiming to restart contract talks with the barista union to address the longstanding labor dispute. The company recognizes the need for resolution and has put forth conditions to resume negotiations. The union has expressed a willingness to engage in talks and is awaiting further developments. The outcome of these negotiations will impact the future of Starbucks employees and potentially set a precedent for labor disputes in the US.