May 6, 2022 - Economy & Business

Starbucks rebukes meeting between Biden and union members

Signage outside a Starbucks coffee shop in San Francisco on April 28.
Signage outside a Starbucks coffee shop in San Francisco on April 28. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Starbucks criticized a recent meeting at the White House with representatives of labor unions for major companies that included members of a growing union within the coffee company.

Driving the news: In a letter sent to the White House on Thursday, Starbucks said it was "deeply concerned" that Workers United was invited to the labor union meeting while not inviting Starbucks official representatives.

  • Starbucks employees at multiple locations have voted to join the national union Workers United since December amid a much larger labor movement, which has been publicly supported by President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Members of Starbucks Workers United were invited along with representatives of labor unions within other major companies to a roundtable with Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh on Thursday.

  • During that meeting, President Biden made an impromptu appearance and thanked the worker organizers for their leadership in organizing unions, according to a readout of the meeting released by the White House.

What they're saying: "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," AJ Jones, Starbuck's senior vice president of global communications and public affairs, said in the letter to Steve Ricchetti, counselor to the president.

  • "We believe this lack of representation discounts the reality that the majority of our partners oppose being members of a union and the unionization tactics being deployed by Workers United," he added.
  • "As such, I am requesting the opportunity to meet with you and bring a diverse, representative group of Starbucks partners from across the country to the White House so that they can share points of view and experiences that are vastly different from those presented by Workers United."

The big picture: The National Labor Relations Board in April accused Starbucks of "retaliating against" three workers involved in organizing a union.

  • Workers United has filed several unfair labor practice charges against Starbucks, while the company has filed unfair labor practice charges against the national labor union.
  • Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz returned to the company in the interim after former CEO Kevin Johnson retired from the company in April. It is seeking to find a permanent leader by the fall.
  • Schultz said last month that the company is "being assaulted, in many ways, by the threat of unionization," Axios' Shawna Chen writes.

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