‘Huge victory’: Starbucks agrees to begin contract talks with 230+ union stores

"We've been ready to bargain since day one," said one union leader, "but now we're operating together on a national level to make sure all of our voices are heard, together."

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SOURCECommon Dreams

Starbucks Workers United celebrated a “huge victory” Monday after the coffee giant committed to begin the bargaining process with nearly 240 unionized stores across the United States, progress that organizers attributed to relentless grassroots pressure from employees as the corporation dragged its feet.

“It’s no secret that Starbucks has been delaying negotiations and avoiding bargaining sessions.”

Starbucks announced that it “has sent 238 letters” inviting Workers United—the union representing Starbucks employees—to join management “at the table and negotiate in good faith in each location where there is certified Workers United representation.”

“Each letter offers a three-week window in October to ensure that members of each bargaining committee, in addition to any other Workers United representative from that store, have ample opportunity to participate,” the company said.

Starbucks Workers United noted in response that “some workers have been waiting over five months to discuss even the most basic of proposals with the company,” including “dignity and respect in the workplace,” “protection from discrimination,” and “worker safety and emergency response.”

Thus far, just three out of around 240 unionized Starbucks locations have held their first bargaining sessions with the company as it continues its unlawful union-busting campaign across the country, firing organizers, slashing hours, denying union workers new benefits, and even closing entire stores—allegedly to prevent employees from organizing for better pay and conditions.

“It’s no secret that Starbucks has been delaying negotiations and avoiding bargaining sessions, so we’ve been hard at work further preparing for them to finally take their seat at our table,” Tyler Keeling, a Starbucks union leader in California, said in a statement Monday. “We’ve been ready to bargain since day one, but now we’re operating together on a national level to make sure all of our voices are heard, together.”

In a social media post, Starbucks Workers United said that over the next two weeks it plans to unveil “a set of CORE non-economic proposals after a process by which thousands of union Starbucks workers brainstormed, drafted, and revised the proposals.”

Keeling said that “these proposals are a fraction of what we’ve been able to do collectively.”

Once the bargaining process formally begins, there’s no guarantee that workers will secure their desired changes—or win a contract at all.

Union organizers who have taken part in the relatively few bargaining sessions that have been held in recent months say management and its notorious corporate law firm, Littler Mendelson, have continued to operate in bad faith and respond with hostility to even the most basic worker demands.

Michelle Eisen, a Buffalo-based Starbucks barista and organizer, told More Perfect Union that after she and others discussed their non-economic proposals with management during one early session, Starbucks proceeded to present the demands to stores across the nation as if they were the union’s complete contract request for the New York location.

“They said: ‘Look, they’re not even asking for improved wages. They’re not even asking for improved benefits. This is all they’re asking for.’ Which was completely untrue,” said Eisen.

“There’s a lot of common ground between Starbucks workers across the country in terms of what we’d like to see in a contract or a collective bargaining agreement,” Eisen added. “They could certainly afford to be paying full health benefits for every one of their employees and not even come close to being in the red.”

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