Sacramento Valley Union Labor Bulletin

Owned and Published by the Sacramento Central Labor Council and the Sacramento-Sierra’s Building & Construction Trades Council, official councils of the AFL-CIO


Starbucks won’t bargain with organizing workers

By Mark Gruenberg, PAI Staff Writer

NEW YORK (PAI)–In what may be a record for the nation’s shortest-ever opening bargaining session, Starbucks bosses listened to Starbucks Workers United workers and labor representatives for six minutes—and then walked out.

As a result, the October 27 session of the talks, which included workers from at least five unionized Starbucks stores, never got off the ground.

Facing a mountain of criticism for refusing to talk with its workers—who have unionized at 250 stores and counting—Starbucks had reversed course and declared it would bargain with workers from the first five unionized stores during a set period of time in October.

The workers, their grass-roots organizations, and Starbucks Workers United, the SEIU which backs them with advice, lawyers and some staff, accepted. The workers then started formulating bargaining proposals and posted them online.

The proposals symbolize the demands of the gathering mass movement of low-wage, workers, most in their 20s and 30s, many of whom represent of a new wave of unionization sweeping the nation. Others include Apple workers, Amazon workers, adjunct professors and port truckers.

But when the session began, Starbucks bosses sat on one side of the table, the workers on the other, and Starbucks workers from around the country tuned in via Zoom. The additional viewers via Zoom quickly became a contentious issue.

The negotiations broke down within minutes, with the Starbucks contingent leaving the room.“The most recent CBA bargaining between SBWU and Starbucks was conducted in a hybrid format, with no complaints from the company. Today, workers finally got the company to the table at five locations, and SBUX suddenly takes issue with the format and walks out,”  Starbucks worker/bargainer Daisy Pitkin tweeted.

“Starbucks is now refusing to bargain—or even listen to our proposals—because a few workers are joining the session virtually.”

Starbucks worker Mason Boykin tweeted Starbucks didn’t restrict its own Seattle-based executives from working via Zoom during height of the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, Starbucks workers were either laid off or forced to work.

“I bet these lawyers and Starbucks corporate executives got to work from home all throughout the pandemic and Zoom’d in for safety and accessibility. It shows the company only cares about those they deem worthy of keeping safe/providing accessibility to,” wrote a worker.

Meanwhile, workers at another metropolitan Chicago Starbucks officially told Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz they want to unionize, too. In their letter, the workers, who work at “one of the busiest stores in the (Chicago) district,” told of massive turnover among new hires and mass quitting by higher-level workers.

Among the reasons: Nine hours per shift on their feet, up to 116 customers in a half-hour, constant screaming from some and little time to learn Starbucks’s thousands of drink permutations and ingredient recipes.

“We teach to a Starbucks standard and we know it is unattainable,” they wrote.