After a wave of government complaints against the retail coffee giant, Sen. Bernie Sanders has demanded Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz stop “closing pro-union” stores and reinstate workers allegedly fired for their union campaigns as hundreds of workers join unions at more than 300. stores across the United States.
“Unfortunately and unacceptable, Starbucks has shown a blatant disregard for … fundamental freedoms and has engaged in a pattern of egregious illegal behavior,” the progressive senator from Vermont wrote in a Jan. 18 letter from his Senate office.
“Therefore, I urge you to immediately stop your aggressive and illegal union fight, resolve any existing violations and pending claims, and negotiate an initial contract with workers that is fair and just,” he added.
About a year after Starbucks workers in Buffalo, New York, voted to form a union, launching a nationwide campaign among workers at company-operated Starbucks cafes across the country, workers at more than 330 stores in nearly 40 states have held union elections , and demanded safer conditions, better wages and more reliable schedules. On Tuesday, workers at three more stores in three states filed union election petitions.
The National Labor Relations Board has filed dozens of complaints against Starbucks, covering about 1,200 violations related to an alleged anti-union effort, including firing workers and closing stores, according to Starbucks Workers United.
“It has been nearly 400 days since the first Starbucks union was certified by the [federal labour agency], and yet you and your company have refused to negotiate a first contract in good faith,” the senator wrote on Wednesday. “Instead, you have approached bargaining meetings with increasingly intense obstacles that include closing union-friendly stores.”
He added: “Mr Schultz, my request to you is simple: Follow the law. Sit down with your workers and negotiate in good faith. Agree to an initial contract that is fair and equitable. Stop closing pro-union stores and reinstate workers fired for union organizing.”
The senator has asked the company to respond to a series of questions about its anti-union efforts by February 1. Sanders had previously requested a response from the company in another letter sent last October.
Last month, hundreds of Starbucks workers at about 100 stores took part in a union-promoted three-day walkout, marking the largest walkout among the coffee retailer’s workers in the company’s history.
Although he has not directly commented on the high-profile union campaign, which has attracted broad support from progressive lawmakers, including New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, among others, President Joe Biden met with a union leader from Starbucks’ New York City flagship. roastery during a White House meeting with labor organizers last year.
That meeting drew ire from the coffee retailer, with a spokesperson writing to management that it is “deeply concerned” that Starbucks was not invited.
A letter to Schultz from newly launched union activists in Portland, Ore., said Tuesday that the company has failed “time and time again to provide adequate measures to ensure the safety of its associates.”
“We deserve to feel safe and valued at work,” workers wrote. “We believe that fair pay, empowered safety practices and consideration for the actual partner experience will lead to a better Starbucks.”
Sanders – the incoming chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee – delivered a speech on the “state of the working class” from the steps of the US Capitol this week as he prepares to step into the role in the new Congress.
“Why do we want to grow the union movement and support workers who are trying to organize?” he said in his remarks on Tuesday. “Because trade unions provide better wages, benefits and working conditions for their members. … The American people know that workers have a constitutional right to form unions and that companies that engage in illegal unionization must be held accountable.”
The independent has requested comment from Starbucks.