Starbucks employees could receive new benefits from working there – but only if they’re not part of the newly formed unions.
Howard Schultz, the company’s CEO, told US store leaders this week that he is reviewing the coffee chain’s employee benefits program.
However, employees who work at company-owned stores that voted to unionize would be barred from those improved benefits.
Schultz cited federal labor law and advice from the company’s legal counsel in claiming that unilaterally extending benefits with unionized locations would be illegal.
When it comes to changes in compensation, benefits, or other terms of employment, employers are required by federal labor law to bargain with the union that represents their employees.
Companies can, however, continue to ask unionized employees if they want additional benefits.
US airlines, for example, are highly unionized and have offered union employees bonuses or extra pay to help with staffing shortages, incentives that fall outside of regular contract negotiations.
In late March, ahead of Schultz’s return to the company, Starbucks Workers said it expected the company would announce new benefits to curb the union push spreading across Starbucks cafes.
In recent months, approximately 200 of Starbucks’ company-owned locations have filed paperwork to unionize. To date, 18 Workers United stores have voted to unionize, with only one cafe voting against.
As the union movement gains traction, Workers United claims the company has engaged in union-busting tactics such as firing organizers, reducing barista hours at unionizing locations, and other forms of retaliation.
Starbucks was charged with violating federal labor law by firing organizers at a Phoenix location, according to a complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board in March.
Schultz has already waged a more aggressive anti-union campaign than previous CEO Kevin Johnson in his first week and a half back at the helm of the company.
Schultz has mentioned the union in public letters and speeches with workers, painting the push to organize as divisive and unnecessary.