Mar 5, 2024 - Business

Labor group withdraws from Starbucks boardroom battle

Illustration of a union protest sign attached to a coffee stirrer in a to-go cup.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The union-backed Strategic Organizing Center (SOC) that waged a boardroom battle against Starbucks has withdrawn its campaign one week before the shareholder vote.

Why it matters: The withdrawal signals that the coffee chain and its union workers made enough progress to avoid pushing the proxy fight to a vote.

Catch up quick: The SOC purchased 162 Starbucks shares and waged a proxy fight to get union-aligned directors on the board. The two sides were set to go head-to-head in a shareholder vote on March 13 at the company's annual meeting, with SOC putting forward three director nominees.

Zoom out: Axios reported on Monday that it was nearly impossible for the SOC to gain any seat after proxy advisers issued their recommendations last week.

Yes, but: Earlier last week, Starbucks and Workers United struck a crucial deal on benefits and a collective bargaining framework that was a huge step forward for union workers.

  • The deal was significant enough to allow SOC to decide that enough progress was made to avoid taking the campaign all the way to a vote, Axios reported.
  • On Tuesday, the SOC announced that it would not proceed with its board fight, citing the progress made from the Workers United deal.

What they're saying: "While we continue to believe that our three exceptionally qualified nominees... would be additive to the Starbucks Board, we feel that now is the time to acknowledge the progress that has been made and to allow the Company and its workers to focus on moving forward," the SOC said in a statement. "As such, we are withdrawing our director nominations."

  • In a statement, a Starbucks spokesperson said, "We appreciate the decision announced by SOC today. Our Board's focus remains on driving long-term value for all stakeholders, including partners, shareholders, customers, and farmers."

Editor's note: This story was updated with the statements from the SOC and Starbucks and additional detail.

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