From the purchase of Starbucks in 1987 to his resignation as chairman in 2018, Howard Schultz consistently and successfully fought an attempt to integrate Starbucks’ US stores and roasting plants.
However, Schultz, who was recently appointed Interim Chief Executive Officer of Starbucks, has never faced a union movement that is as big and fast-growing as Starbucks today. Petition for union elections.
It is unclear how Schultz will tackle this issue when he returns to the company in April.
“He really personally wanted workers to be part of the union,” said Pam Blauman Schmitz, a former union representative who worked to organize the first Starbucks store. “In the early 1980s,” He would say: “Maybe a coal mine needs a union, but a Starbucks store doesn’t.”
Starbucks announced on March 16 that five-year CEO Kevin Johnson will retire. The company has appointed Schultz as interim CEO. Schultz, 68, who has held the honorary title of Honorary Chairman since 2018, has also returned to the company’s board of directors.
It’s not yet clear if Schultz will try to intensify the fight against the union, but Timothy Hubbard, an assistant professor of business administration at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza Business College, said he was in a good position to do so.
“I think this is the best thing to do if you want to close the union,” said Hubbard. “Schultz has what it takes to tackle difficult topics like unions.”
Schultz did not respond to attempts to contact him through his website or his family’s foundation.
Schultz said in a November letter to employees posted shortly before the first union vote at three stores in Buffalo, NY, that he tried to create a company where his blue-collar father never had the opportunity to work. Stated.
He remembered the “traumatic moment” when his family was unable to earn income after his father was injured at work. As a result, Starbucks offers benefits such as medical care, free college tuition, childcare leave, and employee stock swaps.
“No Starbucks partner needs to look for a representative to get what we all have, and I’m sad to hear someone think they need it now. I’m worried, “Schultz wrote.
But for many union organizers who complained of inconsistent time, inadequate training, staff shortages and low wages, Schultz’s words were flat.
Starbucks barista and trade union Jazz Brissack heard Schultz speak at an employee forum in Buffalo last fall.
Others say they saw full anger from Schultz towards the union.
An uninvited guest said that as soon as Schultz acquired Starbucks in 1987, he agreed to a collective bargaining agreement between the company and the United Food and Commercial Workers’ Union, which represents six stores in the Seattle area and a roasting plant. rice field. The new contract, with weaker profits and employment protection, said Blauman Schmitz, who subsequently retired from the union.
One day she said, Schultz found her fainted leaflet in the roasting factory and hurried towards her, screaming and blushing.
Ann Belov had a part-time job at a roasting factory and was a member of the union negotiation committee. She had always received a brilliant performance rating, but she was suddenly and constantly rebuked after Schultz took over. Belov left her company in 1988.
“I could see the letters on the wall. As the company grew, I couldn’t act in the good faith of those who ruled all power,” she said.
Schultz quickly wiped out the union. In his 1997 book, Pour Your Heart Into It, he recalled how baristas who opposed the union launched a campaign to revoke the union’s certification. By 1992, the union was no longer representative of stores and roasting factories. Schultz saw it as a sign that the workers trusted him.
“If they believed in me and my motives, they wouldn’t need a union,” he wrote.
Still, efforts to integrate Starbucks persisted and the company continued to fight them. Starbucks had to reinstate workers who were repeatedly dismissed in the early 2000s or pay to resolve labor law violations.
Last year, NLRB discovered that Starbucks had illegally retaliated against two Philadelphia baristas trying to form a union. NLRB said Starbucks monitored employees’ social media, illegally spying on their conversations and eventually dismissing them. The right to organize two workers and offer to return to work.
Most recently, on March 15, NLRB filed a complaint against Starbucks for threatening and spying on workers in support of the union by Phoenix district and store managers.
Starbucks did not allow anyone to comment.
In a letter to employees in December, Starbucks North American President Rossan Williams said he would respect legal procedures and negotiate in good faith, but the company will work directly with employees to store stores. Claims to improve the functionality of.
The results of current union activities are unknown. The number of stores that have applied for union elections is only a small percentage of Starbucks’ 9,000 company-owned stores in the United States, and Starbucks has the resources to keep fighting, with annual revenue of $ 29. Last year it was $ 1 billion.
However, Brissack said the union’s efforts are stronger than past efforts that have been thwarted by unions with high worker turnover and resource shortages. The White House union-friendly president, Brissack, said the pandemic also fueled workers’ anger.
The climate is also changing. Dan Cornfield, a labor expert and professor of sociology at Vanderbild, said polls in the United States show that public support for the union has increased since the Great Depression.
“By taking an anti-union position since the Reagan era, they could actually endanger their customer base,” Cornfield said.