May 9, 2022

Starbucks' union-busting management garnered little public sympathy Friday after it complained in a letter to the White House that labor organizers—including Laura Garza of Starbucks Workers United—were invited to meet with President Joe Biden but official company "representatives" weren't.

"We are deeply concerned that Workers United, which is actively engaged in collective bargaining with us and trying to organize all our stores and our +240,000 partners (employees), was invited to the meeting while not inviting official Starbucks representatives to discuss our view on the matter," A.J. Jones, senior vice president of global communications and public affairs at Starbucks, wrote in a letter to Steve Ricchetti, counselor to the president.

The letter was made public a day after Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh met with several grassroots organizers—including Amazon Labor Union President Christian Smalls—in the Oval Office amid nationwide efforts by Starbucks and Amazon workers to unionize their workplaces in pursuit of better wages, benefits, and conditions.

Starbucks' complaints to the White House were met with widespread derision on social media, including from baristas and union organizers who have witnessed firsthand the company's aggressive and unlawful attacks on workers.

"A company which has threatened and fired people now demands the president meet with them," tweeted Buffalo barista Will Westlake, a member of the Starbucks Workers United Organizing Committee. "[Starbucks CEO] Howard Schultz failed in his run for president, and now he thinks he can invite himself over."

Joe Calvello, communications director for Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman, expressed a prevailing sentiment among progressives on Twitter in response to Starbucks' letter. "Cry more," he said.

More than 50 Starbucks locations across the U.S. have voted to unionize in recent weeks, riding a wave of organizing spurred by historic election wins in Buffalo late last year.

Since then, Starbucks management has waged a relentless union-busting campaign that, according to organizers and the National Labor Relations Board, has consisted of retaliating against workers involved with unionization efforts, captive-audience meetings, and other tactics.

During an earnings call last week, Schultz announced that Starbucks will soon be implementing wage increases and new benefits for employees across the U.S.—excluding those who have voted to unionize or are currently working toward a union election.

Starbucks union organizers argued that such a move would be unlawful.

"These benefits, including ones we've demanded since the beginning of our campaign, are a response to our organizing efforts and we should celebrate the hard work that partners who stood up to Howard Schultz's bullying put in to make this happen," the Starbucks Workers United Organizing Committee said in a statement following the CEO's comments.

"Many of the proposed benefits have been proposed at the bargaining table in Buffalo," the statement continued. "Starbucks Workers United has already filed charges over Starbucks' threats to exclude unionized stores from receiving these new benefits. This isn't how labor law works, and Starbucks knows that."

Republished from Common Dreams (Jake Johnson, staff writer) under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

Editor's note (Frances Langum): The White House listed the participants in the meeting as "Vice President Harris, [Labor] Secretary Walsh, Christian Smalls, Amazon Labor Union, Laura Garza, Starbucks Workers United/Starbucks, Alex Speidel, United Paizo Workers/CWA, Rachel Gitlevich, Titmouse productions/IATSE, Jaimie Caldwell, Baltimore Public Library/IAM, and Damien Sowell, REI/UFCW-RWDSU." Interesting then, that Starbucks management made the meeting all about them.

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