Starbucks and Workers United, long at odds, say they’ll restart labor talks

Starbucks and the union organizing its U.S. workers said Tuesday they have agreed to begin talks with the aim of reaching labor agreements.

The announcement was a breakthrough for the two sides, which have been at odds since Workers United first organized baristas at a Starbucks store in Buffalo, New York, in late 2021.

“Starbucks and Workers United have a shared commitment to establishing a positive relationship in the interests of Starbucks partners,” Starbucks said in a statement. Workers United echoed those comments in a similar statement.

Workers have voted to unionize at more than 370 company-owned Starbucks stores in the U.S., but none of those stores has reached a labor agreement with the company.

The process has been contentious. In multiple cases, federal courts have ordered Starbucks to reinstate workers who were fired after leading unionization efforts at their stores. Regional offices of the National Labor Relations Board also have issued at least 120 complaints against Starbucks for unfair labor practices, including refusal to bargain and reserving pay raises and other benefits for non-union workers.

Starbucks said Tuesday that, in a sign of goodwill, it will provide workers in unionized stores with benefits it announced in May 2022, including the ability for customers to add a tip to their credit card payments.

Starbucks was the first to indicate that it wanted a better relationship with the union. In December, the company said it wanted to restart labor ta lks with the goal of ratifying contract agreements in 2024. Before then, the two sides hadn’t spoken for seven months.

During discussions last week, the two sides said it became clear there was “a constructive path forward on the broader issue of the future of organizing and collective bargaining at Starbucks.”

Starbucks and Workers United said Tuesday that they also plan to discuss resolving litigation between them. In October, Starbucks sued Workers United, saying a pro-Palestinian social media post from a union account early in the Israel-Hamas war angered hundreds of customers and damaged its reputation. The company demanded that the union stop using its name and likeness. Workers United countersued, saying Starbucks had defamed the union and implied it supported terrorism.

“While there is plenty of work ahead, coming together to develop this framework is a significant step forward and a clear demonstration of a shared commitment to working collaboratively and with mutual respect,” the union said in a statement. Starbucks echoed those comments.

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