Starbucks touts more benefits for non-union workers at investor day marked by protests

Seattle, Washington - Inside their Seattle headquarters, Starbucks execs held their investor day on Tuesday, promising a "reinvention" that includes a new attitude towards labor relations. Outside, their own employees protested the company's refusal to engage with an increasingly unionized workforce.

Members of the Starbucks Workers United union protest in front of the company's headquarters on Tuesday.
Members of the Starbucks Workers United union protest in front of the company's headquarters on Tuesday.  © REUTERS

Starbucks' annual event is all about showing big investors and Wall Street analysts how the company plans to meet its challenges and continue growth.

At the meeting, Starbucks announced its "reinvention plan" aimed at improving efficiency and driving company growth in the post-pandemic market.

They also want to reduce high employee turnover rates. Today, around 25% of US baristas are quitting their jobs within 90 days, up from about 10% before the pandemic, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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But instead of collaborating with Starbucks Workers United, the union now representing almost 240 stores, the coffee giant doubled down on its own plan to deal with the changing "labor market" by introducing new benefits – only for non-union workers. Already announced Monday, these include student loan repayment tools, a savings account program, and increased mental health resources.

Starbucks' current CEO Howard Schultz will keep his role at the company to help implement the plan through April, at which point his successor, Laxman Narasimhan, is set to take over.

As far as addressing the unionization movement goes, there was one not-so-subtle remark from COO John Culver: "There are two paths: we can work together as partners, side by side, or we can have a third party between us."

Starbucks repeats benefits trick

The Starbucks headquarters in Seattle, Washington, hosted the annual investor day.
The Starbucks headquarters in Seattle, Washington, hosted the annual investor day.  © REUTERS

Starbucks had previously announced pay raises of $17 an hour, seniority pay increases, and improvements to store conditions for non-union employees in May. It argued that federal labor laws prevented it from offering the same benefits to unionized workers without first entering into an official bargaining process.

At the time, Starbucks Workers United blasted the company for using the benefits as a union-busting tool, pointing out it had voluntarily waived its bargaining right in those circumstances.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has also spoken out, saying it's illegal for Starbucks to raise wages and increase benefits only for non-union stores, but that hasn't stopped the company from apparently doing just that once again.

The NLRB has already filed 27 complaints against Starbucks, accusing the company of more than 600 violations of federal labor law.

Cover photo: REUTERS

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