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30 Mär 2023

Crain's Chicago Business

USA: Investors ask Starbucks to perform labour rights audit amid concerns of union busting; incl. co. comment

"Starbucks' union tactics face investor pressure," 30 Mar. 2023

Starbucks Corp. said it won’t enter into a neutrality agreement with workers seeking to unionize, as it awaits the results of a shareholder proposal about its labor practices. 

... Neutrality, [Starbucks Chief Communications and Public Affairs Officer AJ] Jones said, would allow baristas to unionize without a secret ballot vote and via what’s just known as a card check. “To be clear, we respect every partner's right to organize and lawfully engage in union activities.”

... Following allegations of illegal anti-union tactics by Starbucks during a flurry of organizing at its stores, a group of shareholders filed the workers’ rights proposal at the Seattle-based company asking for an independent audit of their labor practices.

... The National Labor Relations Board has issued over 80 complaints against Starbucks for illegal activities, including shutting down stores and firing activists. Former Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz, who handed off the reins earlier this week, will testify in Congress next week about the company’s conduct.

... The Starbucks vote, the first on this issue in 2023, will test the investor labor strategy. Proxy advisors ISS and Glass Lewis both recommended that shareholders vote for the audit at Starbucks. The union representing Starbucks baristas, Workers United, sent a letter earlier this month to investors asking them to vote in favor of the proposal, too. ... workers at about 100 stores across more than 40 cities went on strike, protesting alleged union busting.  

... Starbucks has repeatedly said that it obeys US labor laws and that any claims of anti-union activity are “categorically false.” The company is conducting its own independent human rights assessment, which it will release to the public, and doesn’t see the need for a third-party audit, the company said in a proxy response to the ballot proposal. It reiterated that position in the meeting with shareholders.

... Starbucks spokesperson Reggie Borges said in an email that “a number of our executives have engaged and met with top investors when it comes to the topic of labor and we continue to regularly engage to help address any questions they have on the topic.”