Starbucks is warning its baristas unionizing might endanger the company’s gender-affirming health care coverage for transgender employees.
A complaint was submitted with the federal labor board on Monday, June 13, after more than 100 of the coffee chain’s 9,000 US outlets voted to unionize under Workers United in the previous seven months.
Starbucks has been attempting to resist the union effort under interim CEO Howard Schultz by underlining the possible limitations of collective bargaining, such as federal labor regulations that restrict the company from unilaterally raising salaries across unionized outlets without contract discussions.
A transgender employee at an Oklahoma City store has claimed that her manager made a “veiled threat” during a conversation.
The manager allegedly advised the employee that if the store is unionized, her benefits may increase, remain the same, or worsen, and particularly mentioned her usage of the trans healthcare benefits.
Since 2012, the company’s health insurance has covered gender reassignment surgery, and since 2018, it has covered a broader range of gender-affirming treatments such as hair transplants and breast reduction.
As state lawmakers focus on transgender issues, the coffee company said this month that it would reimburse travel fees for gender-affirming procedures.
More than 150 anti-trans laws have been submitted in state legislatures as of mid-March, with the goal of restricting access to health care, sports, toilets, and education. This year, Oklahoma, for example, has enacted three anti-transit legislation.
Starbucks frequently highlights its long history of supporting LGBTQ+ employees and the larger community, especially during Pride Month in June.
The firm emphasizes its decades-old policies, such as health care coverage for same-sex domestic partnerships and employees with terminal diseases, which were inspired by a Starbucks employee who died from AIDs complications.