Starbucks and The Union Start New Negotiations After Long Stalemate

Starbucks and the union representing its baristas will recommence contract negotiations on Wednesday, signaling the end of a prolonged stalemate.

The decision to return to the bargaining table follows a February announcement where both parties acknowledged finding a “constructive path forward” during mediation discussions related to litigation over the union’s use of Starbucks’ branding.

This shift marks a significant departure for Starbucks, which had spent the previous two years embroiled in conflict with Workers United and the broader movement advocating for unionization within its cafes.

Starbucks  Employess
Starbucks (Credits: J. Scott Applewhite)

As of Monday, approximately 500 company-owned Starbucks locations in the U.S. have voted to unionize under Workers United since the inaugural elections in December 2021.

However, none of these establishments, representing a small fraction of the total U.S. footprint, have reached a collective bargaining agreement.

Previous attempts at bargaining between Starbucks and the union, affiliated with the Service Employees International Union, ended in a stalemate, with both sides accusing the other of undermining negotiations.

While Starbucks had insisted on in-person negotiations without Zoom participation, the union viewed this stance as a delaying tactic. Whether all representatives will attend in person for the latest talks remains uncertain.

Although store agreements will be negotiated and ratified separately, proposals made by the union might impact all Starbucks workers it represents. Workers United has advocated for higher wages, more consistent scheduling, and various other priorities.

Labor laws mandate that both employer and union bargain in good faith, though they do not necessitate reaching a collective bargaining agreement. After a year, workers disillusioned with the union can petition for decertification, adding pressure on negotiations.

Currently, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has 19 pending petitions for decertification. Starbucks has faced accusations of unfair labor practices, leading the labor board to deny 18 other decertification petitions.

Starbucks Union Strikes

Aside from negotiations with Workers United, Starbucks has been in talks with other unions representing its cafes, such as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters negotiating for a store outside Pittsburgh.

The resumption of contract negotiations coincides with a pivotal moment for Starbucks and unions. On Tuesday, the company appeared before the Supreme Court to challenge a lower court’s approval of an injunction sought by the NLRB to reinstate seven terminated workers at a Memphis cafe.

Starbucks argued that the NLRB’s threshold for injunctions differs from other agencies, suggesting potential ramifications for organized labor pending the Supreme Court’s decision, expected this summer.

Starbucks may provide further updates on union negotiations during its quarterly earnings call, scheduled for Tuesday.

Josh Alba
Josh Alba
Josh Alba stands at the forefront of contemporary business journalism, his words weaving narratives that illuminate the intricate workings of the corporate world. With a keen eye for detail and a penchant for uncovering the underlying stories behind financial trends, Josh has established himself as a trusted authority in business writing. Drawing from his wealth of experience and relentless pursuit of truth, Josh delivers insights that resonate with readers across industries.
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