business news in context, analysis with attitude

Bloomberg reports that Starbucks "has refused to negotiate in good faith at more than 100 newly unionized cafes, US labor board prosecutors alleged in a complaint.

"The coffee chain has illegally 'failed and refused' to collectively bargain fairly at 144 sites. Those include the first two cafes to unionize with Starbucks Workers United, the National Labor Relations Board’s Seattle regional director said. At those two locations, both in upstate New York, the agency alleges that Starbucks 'bargained with no intention of reaching agreement' with the union, including by 'insisting upon proposals that are predictably unacceptable to the union,' and 'demeaning and otherwise undermining the union’s chosen representatives,' according to a filing Tuesday filing.

The story notes that while Starbucks has not yet reacted to the allegations, it has consistently denied similar charges.

Bloomberg notes that "complaints issued by NLRB prosecutors are considered by agency judges, whose rulings can be appealed to labor board members in Washington DC, and from there into federal court. Regional NLRB directors have issued more than 80 complaints against Starbucks, accusing the company of illegal anti-union tactics including threats, store shutdowns and terminations of dozens of activists … The agency has the authority to order companies to change their behavior but not to issue punitive damages for violations."

KC's View:

Starbucks made a big deal this week in a press release about how former (three-time) CEO Howard Schultz, who now is a board member at the company, visited Beijing to spend time with Chinese employees "on the heels of Starbucks 6,000th store opening in China to fulfill a promise to visit and celebrate the partners of Starbucks fastest growing region."

And all I could think was how Schultz must kind of like visiting China - it has an authoritarian regime that, if it chooses to, can shut down unionization efforts just by outlawing them.  So much easier that way.

Seems to me that Schultz also displayed a certain lack of situational awareness.  "Being authentic and being vulnerable is a strength, not a weakness. Being open and honest and sincere is a strength,” he told the employees.  But I'm not sure that any of those qualities are particularly valued by a regime that looks to create closer relations with Putin's Russia, and where a United Nations report late last year confirmed "wide-scale evidence of mass arbitrary detentions, family separations, torture, and religious persecution," concluding that "Chinese authorities may have committed crimes against humanity."

Maybe Schultz needs to switch to decaf.