Starbucks “deeply concerned” about Biden meeting with barista union

Starbucks is objecting to a meeting this week between President Joe Biden and Starbucks union organizers, saying that because it wasn’t invited to the event the meeting had a “lack of representation.”

In a May 5 letter provided to CBS News by Starbucks, the coffee chain said it is requesting its own meeting with the White House where it can “bring a diverse, representative group of Starbucks partners” to talk about working at the company. It also said “the majority of our partners oppose being members of a union and the unionization tactics being deployed by Workers United.”

Mr. Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh met Thursday with union organizers involved in organizing locations at companies including Starbucks and Amazon. In a tweet, Mr. Biden said “these folks are inspiring a movement of workers across the country to fight for the pay and benefits they deserve.”

Despite Starbucks’ assertion that most workers don’t want to unionize, the chain is facing a burst of labor organizing at locations across the U.S. Roughly 50 Starbucks stores have voted to unionize with Workers United, a branch of the Service Employees International Union, and workers at more than 250 U.S. locations have filed petitions with the National Labor Relations Board to hold union elections.

Howard Schultz opposes union

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz opposes the union drive, insisting the company functions better when it works directly with employees. In the May 5 letter, Starbucks said it has a “drastically more positive vision for our partners and our company than Workers United. And our vision is based on listening, connecting, collaborating and engaging directly with our partners.”

During Starbucks’ earnings call on Tuesday, Schultz said the company can offer better pay and benefits than the union can provide. “Compare any union contract in our sector to the constantly expanding list of wages and benefits we have provided our people for decades, and the union contract will not even come close to what Starbucks offers,” he said.

The company on Tuesday unveiled $200 million in additional investments in worker pay and training, as well as potential new benefits such as increased sick time. However, those benefits won’t be available to unionized Starbucks workers. Instead, U.S. labor law requires stores to negotiate their own contracts with Starbucks.

Starbucks Workers United poked fun at Starbucks’ complaint about the White House meeting, tweeting that they “kept a chair empty to represent you, was that not enough??” That refers to reports that Starbucks keeps empty chairs to represent workers and customers at every corporate meeting. 

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