Starbucks CEO returns amid growing union drive across the nation

Kiarra Rocker ‘23, Feature Editor

Labor unions are a fundamental part in the protection of workers rights. By definition, unions are an organized group of workers who unite to make decisions about conditions affecting their work, influencing economic and social justice.

Starting in 2021, a wave of Starbucks stores across the country began to attempt union organizing. Starting in Buffalo, New York, three different stores voted to unionize, making it a landmark moment for the corporation. One store voted successfully, one was rejected, while the other failed to reach a verdict as legal troubles emerged. Employees who voted to unionize joined Workers United. 

Since Buffalo, a countless number of stores across the nation have petitioned for union elections, with a number of them who have voted to join Workers United. Employees are demanding higher wages, changes to their scheduling system, and better pandemic benefits, among other requests.

As more and more stores make the process of unionization, workers have experienced union-busting activities, such as hours being cut or attempting to delay elections, but employees continue to voice their support for the campaigns. 

After the resignation of the previous CEO, Starbucks longtime CEO, Howard Schultz, made his return to Starbucks on April 4. Over the span of three decades, he worked to build the Starbucks franchise into the worldwide powerhouse it is today. Although he has been known for his socially progressive stance for the corporation, it is vital to note Schultz’s extreme public opposition to unionization. Shortly before the Buffalo union elections, he addressed Starbucks workers to reconsider their stance by saying, “I am saddened and concerned to hear anyone thinks [unionization] is needed now.” 

Despite his return, he has currently made no response to the surge of union drives, and it is unclear how he will handle it. Pam Blauman-Schmitz, a retired union representative from the organization efforts in the early 1980s, told AP News, “He took it really personally that his workers wanted to be part of a union, because he thought with him in charge they wouldn’t need it…he would say stuff like, ‘Maybe you need unions in the coal mines, but not at Starbucks stores.’” 

Schultz’s current stance on unions prompts a necessary question of the state of the union drives, specific to Starbucks. His response, in support or not, will ultimately affect thousands of workers.

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