Why Starbucks Workers Are Furious Over Its CEO's Latest Comments

The unionization effort within Starbucks has gradually picked up some impressive steam. According to CNN, 17 Starbucks locations across the country have joined the company's worker's union and 100 more stores have so far signed up to vote on joining the union. While this effort looks to be gaining momentum, the overall percentage of stores and employees interested in joining this worker's movement in the big picture looks much smaller. Out of the 235,000 workers that Starbucks employs throughout America, only 1,000 have joined the union.

Starbucks has taken note of the effort and responded in kind. The company instituted two wage raises over the past year and a half while preventing shareholders from repurchasing stocks in order to better its workforce. While it looks like the coffee chain has taken some proactive, positive steps to make its workforce happy, the business has also purportedly engaged in some union-busting techniques and methods that have made headlines. Salon reported that Starbucks previously started a website to discourage employees from joining the union, organized anti-union mandatory meetings at a variety of cafe locations, and sent its baristas anti-union text messages. Starbucks has now drawn the ire of some employees yet again due to some comments made by the brand's CEO.

Inflammatory remarks from Starbucks' CEO

According to The New York Times, Howard Schultz, the interim chief executive of Starbucks, told store managers that the brand has started considering expanding special benefits to nonunion employees that wouldn't extend to anyone who joined the growing union. A spokesperson for the company defended the position by restating Schultz' comment, saying, "We are not permitted by law to unilaterally give that benefit to the stores that voted for union while they are in collective bargaining." The actual comments made by the CEO were not made public.

Starbucks employees reacted to the announcement with ire. The Wall Street Journal reports that one advocate for the Starbucks unionization effort referred to the coffee company's move as a "union avoidance technique," while another Boston-based barista who just unionized along with their store found the comments insulting. "I'm an extremely pro-union partner," the barista said. "I don't hate Starbucks." In the meantime, the union efforts continue to move ahead and leaders plan to keep up the momentum.