Starbucks Has Finally Spoken Out About The Unionization Of Its Stores

A labor union is a group of workers who empower themselves, via organization, to have a say in their working conditions (e.g., hours, safety, pay) per Investopedia. Unions first began forming in 18th century Europe. The Industrial Revolution had caused the number of workers to skyrocket, and everyone knows there's power in numbers — perhaps even enough to level the playing field with their employers, who previously held most of the power (because money is a number too). 

Today more than 14 million workers belong to 60 U.S. unions, according to Union Plus, which notes, "no matter what work you do, there's probably a union that represents your work." But it's one thing for there to "be" a union; actually enjoying the benefits of being in a union involves the lengthy and complicated process of "organization," which begins with gathering together like-minded co-workers to interface with the union you wish to belong to and then convincing a majority to vote for unionization even if, as has been the case during the last year's push to unionize at Starbucks, your employer is decidedly not pleased.

Nevertheless, employees at one Starbucks store in Buffalo, New York are so far along in the process that management is now required by law to engage in negotiations with the union. And close to 90 other Starbucks stores are somewhere along that same road, per Restaurant Business. Now, after nearly two months of silence on the issue, Starbucks has finally spoken out about the unionization of its stores.

Starbucks breaks nearly two months of silence on the issue

The last time that Starbucks spoke out publicly regarding the employee-proposed unionization of its stores was in late December 2021, in connection with the unionization of the Buffalo store mentioned above. In a letter to its partners, Starbucks stated unequivocally, "From the beginning, we've been clear in our belief that we do not want a union between us as partners, and that conviction has not changed. However, we have also said that we respect the legal process." Now, after nearly two months, Starbucks has posted, to its website, a page devoted to telling its side of the Starbucks unionization story. 

And it's pretty much the same story. "We know that some partners are considering unionizing and know that you may have questions about that," Starbucks notes in a FAQ on the page. "We do not believe unions are necessary at Starbucks because we know that the real issues are solved through our direct partnership with one another." Further, Starbucks points out that the would be perfectly okay with their workers (whom they refer to as "partners") voting "no" if and when the question comes up for them. The company goes on to point out some of the negatives that employees may not realize they may face if their store should unionize.

Starbucks has some opinions on unionizing it stores

"Voting for a union is a big decision that can impact you, your partners and your store," Starbucks informed its employees (i.e. partners) in a new website posting, which includes a 10-point primer on unions, or at least, unions according to Starbucks, which does not want to see its employees unionized. "You should educate yourself before making your choice," the company states before listing a series of "things you might not know about unions."

First, according to Starbucks, if you join a union (which will happen if your store votes to do so, whether or not you voted "yes"), you may have to pay dues (as a prerequisite to staying employed). Second, just because a union is bargaining with a company, that doesn't mean the union gets what it wants or what you want as a member of the union. In fact, "some things you value might now might go away." Moreover, it could take a year or three or more before you start to see the changes you are currently hoping to see. Also, "unionizing is a complicated process," Starbucks reminds the reader. But not before getting a jab in about the union in question, Workers United.

"Workers United is a union," Starbucks clarifies in case there were doubt. "It is not a group of 'partners for partners,'" the company goes on to say, but "part of one of the largest unions in the country." The targeted messaging from the website is one of the reasons some accuse the company of union-busting