Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, both Democrats from N.J., penned a letter to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz March 14 urging him to stop delaying negotiations with four unionized New Jersey Starbucks stores in Hopewell Township, Hamilton, Summit and Montclair.
In the letter, the senators call on Schultz and Starbucks to negotiate in good faith with Starbucks Workers United as required by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), noting that the four shops have waited between six and 10 months to form a first collective bargaining agreement, as required by the NLRA.
“On May 4, 2022, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) certified the first New Jersey union at a Starbucks store in Hopewell Township with the employees voting unanimously to form a union. Since then, despite Starbucks’ blatant anti-union behavior, three other stores in the state have voted to unionize. In forming these unions, our constituents have demanded commonsense requests like pay increases for the augmentation of their responsibilities due to the pandemic, higher quality training, more consistent scheduling, health and safety improvements, and the protection of benefits for part-time workers,” the senators wrote.
These union stores have also sent representatives to a national bargaining committee where they have developed non-economic proposals, such as non-discrimination policy enhancements to protect employees from harassment and bullying; the creation of a labor-management committee for employees and management to jointly resolve disputes; and seniority rights in union stores.
“Whether you agree or disagree with these proposals, the NLRA provides all New Jerseyans the right to bargain in good faith with you as their employer regarding their pay, hours, and workplace conditions. Section 8(a)(5) of the law clearly makes it an unfair labor practice to refuse to bargain collectively with the representatives of its employees,” the letter continues.
The senators say the delay is cause for serious concern, pointing out:
Menendez and Booker said they do not expect Starbucks to immediately accept all of the proposals made by the union.
“However, we urge you to sit down with union representatives in an honest attempt to form a collective bargaining contract in accordance with requirements set forth under the NLRA,” they said.
The letter closed with a pointed criticism of Starbucks by Menendez and Booker.
“While Starbucks has gone to great lengths to present itself as a company that takes care of its employees, going so far as to call employees ‘partners,’ it appears the reality is detached from this brand image,” they wrote.
The New Jersey senators requested a written response by March 27—two days before a March 29 Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing, where Schultz, who is stepping down later this month as Starbucks CEO, will testify.
“We would like to request a written response by March 27, 2023, that explains the most recent actions your company has taken to advance good faith negotiations with the union in New Jersey,” said Menendez and Booker.
Starbucks disputes the assertions made in the letter, telling NJBIZ that it has acted in good faith throughout the process with Workers United, attributing blame to the group for the delay in scheduling and having substantive bargaining sessions.
“We believe our direct relationship as partners is core to the culture and experiences we create in our stores. We respect our partners’ rights to organize and engage in lawful union activities and we have fully honored the process laid out by the NLRB to ensure that partners can trust the process is fair and their voice is heard,” Rachel Wall, director of corporate & labor communications, told NJBIZ in a statement. “With our partners in mind, we remain ready to bargain in good faith and have urged Workers United to do the same.”
“Starbucks is currently being prosecuted for over 1,400 alleged violations of federal labor law. They have flagrantly violated the law in many instances in the name of their union-busting campaign and are finally being held accountable for their actions both by the National Labor Relations Board and now the U.S. Senate,” Starbucks Workers United told NJBIZ in a statement. “We look forward to hearing Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz testify on his role as the architect of Starbucks’ union-busting campaign in front of the Senate HELP committee on March 29th.”s