As Howard Schultz prepares to begin his third term as Starbucks CEO next month amid a growing wave of union organizing at coffee shops across the United States, Senator Bernie Sanders on Tuesday demanded that the billionaire immediately ends the “massive anti-union campaign”. led by the company’s outgoing chief executive.
“Mr. Schultz: This is a pivotal moment for Starbucks. As you return to the business, it’s time to do the right thing.”
“Please abide by the Constitution of the United States and do not unlawfully obstruct your employees’ efforts to unionize,” Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, wrote in a letter to Schultz. “Like all workers in America, Starbucks employees have the right to form a union and collectively bargain for decent wages and benefits, safe working conditions and reliable hours.”
The Vermont senator’s message came days after the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a formal complaint against the Seattle-based company on behalf of Starbucks Workers United, a group helping Starbucks employees. organizing efforts in dozens of states across the country. The lawsuit accused the coffee chain of unlawfully retaliating against union organizers in Phoenix, Arizona.
As Sanders noted in his letter, the NLRB also “found that Starbucks unlawfully retaliated against two Starbucks employees in Philadelphia” when they attempted to form a union at their store. Five Starbucks locations in Buffalo, New York and one in Mesa, Arizona have already voted to form a union, and about 140 organizing campaigns are currently underway in the United States
“Workers have been fired for the ‘crime’ of being pro-union,” Sanders wrote. “Pro-union employees have seen their work hours sharply reduced. Work schedules have repeatedly changed. Starbucks executives intimidated and coerced workers into attending captive union-busting meetings. Hired at least 30 Littler Mendelson attorneys, a notoriously anti-union law firm.”
“Mr. Schultz: This is a pivotal moment for Starbucks,” Sanders added. “As you return to the company, it’s time to do the right thing: end union busting and uphold the law.”
Schultz barely earned a pro-worker reputation during his previous tenures as a Starbucks top executive. As a progressive media organization more perfect union noted in a blog post last week, “Schultz has been violently anti-union since the 1980s.”
The post continues:
Schultz created Starbucks by merging two coffee chains. One was unionized, which is why the employees have decent benefits. Schultz made life hell for the workers, waged an anti-union campaign and got them to dissolve the union…
In the late 1990s, Starbucks workers again attempted to unionize. This resulted in a fierce campaign to arrest them, which they overcame to win their single-store election. It was a short-lived success due to the threats and intimidation that followed.
Schultz’s Starbucks continued to fight workers who wanted to unionize for the next 20 years. In 2004, a number of cafes attempted to unionize. Starbucks used many of the same union busting tactics they use today. At the time, they were working.
After Starbucks announced last week that Schultz would return to the company on an interim basis during its search for a permanent CEO, workers expressed concern that the billionaire would return specifically to thwart union momentum.
“I think the reason they brought Howard back is very clear,” Casey Moore, a Buffalo employee and Starbucks Workers United organizer, said during a press call last week with members of Congressional Labor. Caucus.
According to Moore, Starbucks management believes that “Howard is the only person who can convince workers not to unionize”.