Starbucks chief Howard Schultz talks about non-union benefits

Starbucks acting general manager Howard Schultz told a weekly store managers meeting on Monday that benefits he plans to extend to non-union employees will not immediately apply to newly unionized workers in the store. ‘business.

The statement, just over a week after Mr. Schultz’s third round as chief executive, came after workers at at least 16 company-owned stores voted to unionize in the past six months, although the National Labor Relations Board has not yet certified all of the results. .

Since Mr. Schultz returned as chief executive, Starbucks has fired at least three union supporters, who a spokesperson said violated company policies. Mr. Schultz also suspended share buybacks so that the company “has the opportunity to invest more in our partners and our stores,” he said in a letter to employees Sunday, and he held meetings with employees in several cities to ask for their ideas for improving the business.

Two appearances became contentious when Mr. Schultz was confronted by pro-union employees.

A Starbucks spokesperson said comments about the benefits at Monday’s meeting came up during a question-and-answer session, when Schultz was asked about how the new benefits being considered by the company could become part of the union campaign.

The spokesperson, paraphrasing Mr. Schultz, said the chief executive responded that when introducing a benefit, “we are not permitted by law to unilaterally extend this benefit to stores that voted for the union while they are in collective bargaining”.

The spokesperson said the topic of benefits stemmed from employee input in recent sessions with Mr. Schultz, and that the Starbucks chief did not provide examples of benefits he was considering or when they might be offered.

The comments were reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal Wednesday.

Labor law experts said companies were allowed to discuss the difference between benefits union and non-union employees received, but could not implicitly promise that employees would receive better benefits if they chose. not to unionize.

Matthew Bodie, a former labor board attorney who teaches law at St. Louis University, said the comments could be construed as undermining so-called lab conditions required for the upcoming union elections if they had been public, but not necessarily if they were. meant to be kept confidential. Mr Bodie said the comments could still be evidence of an intent to bargain in bad faith by seeking to offer unionized employees a worse deal than non-unionized employees, which is also considered an unfair labor practice .

Wilma Liebman, former chair of the National Labor Relations Board, said the timing of the potential benefits was questionable because it was unclear whether they would have been added without the labor campaign.

While it’s hard to know for sure whether Mr. Schultz crossed a legal line without revisiting his specific comments, which the company did not provide, the spokesperson said Mr. Schultz merely pointed out what the law required.

Mr. Schultz was outspoken in his opposition to the union. In his sunday letterhe suggested that many employees who supported unionization were “colluding with outside union forces” and wrote that he did not believe that “conflicts, divisions and dissensions – which have been at the center of organizing union – benefit Starbucks or our partners”.

He added that less than 1% of Starbucks’ more than 200,000 employees in the United States had voted to unionize and about 65% of employees eligible to vote in a union election had not participated.

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