Why Some Employees Are Accusing Starbucks Of Union-Busting

As recently as 2019, prospective Starbucks employees were raving about the perks they were in line to receive when they became partners. A full ride to Arizona State University's online program. Contributions to your 401(K). Partner discounts and freebies for everything from gyms to Spotify Premium accounts (via The Penny Hoarder). So it might have come as a big surprise when it came to light that Starbucks employees were voting to unionize

What we on the outside might have seen as a good gig didn't actually feel that way to those on the inside. Time reveals baristas at the Buffalo NY Starbucks had actually been chatting with a union organizer for years. However, no moves were taken seriously until the coronavirus pandemic came around and triggered a new set of workplace problems, including risk of exposure to COVID-19. It was then when they decided to act.

"You can't tell us that we're essential workers and then also tell us that we shouldn't have a voice or equal say," said Starbucks barista Jaz Brisack, who organized a unionization campaign at a different coffee chain in the past.

This is why Starbucks was accused of union-busting

Unsurprisingly, Starbucks was not too keen on the idea of having its employees organize themselves — and it moved to encourage the workers to vote down the measure. 

In a letter sent to employees, Allyson Peck, Starbucks' Northeast regional Vice President, wrote: "There's a lot going on. We want to talk about and connect on the union vote and what it means and doesn't mean for you, because it has a potentially big impact on your job and your store." She added: "Unless you are positive you want to pay a Union to represent you to us, you must vote no. There is no opt out if the majority of voters vote yes, regardless of how you voted" (via Yahoo Finance).

Sending letters was just the tip of the iceberg. CNBC reports that Starbucks had also sent executives to coffee shops that wanted to unionize. While workers called that "union-busting," the company denied it was trying to influence the vote. In a statement to The New York Times, the coffee giant described the move as part of standard practices.

Beyond this, Starbucks attempted to hold a single vote with 20 stores in the market. The coffee giant was overruled, though, when the National Labor Relations Board rejected this move. Still, none of this appeared to matter to Starbucks employees, who voted to unionize in the end.