The Boston Globe reports that Starbucks seems to be successful at "grinding down" the unionization movement taking place at some of its cafes, though the process of doing so also seems to be taking its toll on the company.
Here's how the Globe frames the scenario:
"Three months ago, baristas at a Starbucks in Beverly narrowly voted to unionize, hoping for better wages, working conditions, and benefits.
"Now only four of the 14 employees who cast votes in that election remain at the cafe, said barista Rob Stevens — a high turnover rate that threatens the union’s momentum as Starbucks pushes back. Many baristas left, after what Stevens said were petty retaliations by managers, such as dinging them over dress clothes prohibitions, or scheduling them for either too few or too many hours. (Starbucks denies those allegations.)
He intends to hang on, but it’s getting lonely … His is a fairly common sentiment among veteran baristas at newly unionized Starbucks locations across the region, as the fight to organize the Seattle coffee giant enters its third year.
"Starbucks remains one of the biggest-name battlegrounds in the wave of union activity that has swept the country since the COVID pandemic, with an estimated 9,000 workers at nearly 380 stores nationwide, and around 20 in New England, voting to join Starbucks Workers United.
"But only a few of these locals have sat down with the company to even begin negotiations. (Starbucks has around 15,000 retail locations in the United States.)"
The Globe continues:
"In a high-turnover industry, such delays can quickly sap enthusiasm, threatening to bring the union campaign that came to define the resurgence of American labor to a standstill.
"At the same time, the dispute dented Starbucks, too. The National Labor Relations Board has issued over 100 complaints against the company, alleging retaliation against union workers and a failure to bargain in good faith. And company shareholders voted earlier this year for an independent assessment of its behavior toward workers. It found no evidence of an 'anti-union playbook,' but suggested increasing training for managers, evaluating disciplinary actions, and strengthening its Global Human Rights statement. Days later, on Dec. 8, Starbucks sent an open letter asking the union to resume contract negotiations.
"And on Dec. 13, federal regulators also accused Starbucks of illegally closing 23 stores to suppress union activity and moved to force the company to reopen them."
The company denies retaliating against pro-union employees.
- KC's View:
I think it is fair to say that the pro-union forces have only been marginally successful in organizing employees, and to this point spectacularly unsuccessful in getting Starbucks to negotiate in good faith.
At the same time, it seems to me that Starbucks come out of this looking like a smaller, lesser company - a company in which management was out of touch with what was happening in its stores, and the degree to which employees were dealing with unsustainable conditions. This insensitivity can only be attributed to problem in upper management.
This hasn't been a good process for anyone, but nobody seems to be acting like they want to really resolve the impasse between the two sides. The road doesn't just go nowhere, but also seems endless.