Starbucks' Anti-Union Activity Is Being Questioned By US Senators

Things aren't looking great for corporate Starbucks. (Again). If you've been following the unionization saga that has been unfolding across Starbucks stores nationwide since last December, then you know what an ugly scene it's been for the coffee execs. The Pumpkin Spice Latte might've just garnered record-breaking sales, but it looks like that could be the only good news to report for corporate Starbucks this season.

The coffee giant's seemingly anti-union actions have turned more than a few heads. According to Reuters, 245 Starbucks stores nationwide have successfully won their union elections in the past year. Since the first store in Buffalo voted to unionize in December 2021, Starbucks has been whipping out an armada of apparent union-busting tactics. In April, Starbucks had already been sued by the National Labor Relations Board and Workers United over 80 times, per NPR. Since then, Starbucks has reportedly retaliated against pro-union employees by enacting unlawful terminations (leading to multiple lawsuits), withholding wages and raises, and even shuttering stores in which there's talk of holding a union election. Last week, Starbucks announced that it was finally ready to begin union contract negotiations, but according to some, that isn't enough. 

This continuously-growing laundry list of measures requires a massive sum of legal fees to fund — and now, four U.S. senators are demanding to know the dollar sign.

US senators want to see changes now

Last Tuesday, four U.S. senators sent a letter to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz demanding that he reveal how much the company has collectively spent on lawyers, settlements, and consulting fees during their legal battle against union employees, per Reuters. Independent senator Bernie Sanders and Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren, Richard Blumenthal, and Ed Markey also asked for "a list of changes" the company planned to implement to favor non-union employees. Warren even accused the coffee chain of "weaponizing benefits and wage increases to discourage workers from organizing."

Among its more recent and egregious benefits exclusions, Starbucks announced a new plan last month for helping employees pay off student debt — but only if they were non-union (via Common Dreams). Last month, New York City sued Starbucks for violating the Fair Workweek Law, which was designed to protect fast food industry workers, per Reuters. Also last month, former barista and current union organizer Jaz Brisack was reportedly "forced out" of her job when the company suddenly refused to accept her schedule and availability, says New York Times

Last month, Senator Sanders — one of the authors of the letter to Starbucks – tweeted about the issue. "The firing of Starbucks union leader Jaz Brisack [and] more than 100 other pro-union workers at Starbucks is not only shameful, it is a blatant & illegal attempt to bust the union that has won over 230 elections. I say to Howard Schultz: Obey the law. Re-instate these workers NOW," he demanded.