Starbucks Shareholders Agree To Review Of Company's Labor Practices

Earlier this week, a cheerful Tweet from Starbucks teased, "It's that fun time of year where it's hot coffee weather in the morning and cold coffee weather by the afternoon." Cute, right? Senator Sanders didn't think so. He Tweeted back, "It's that fun time of year to stop union busting and negotiate a fair contract with your workers" — and his Tweet "ratioed" Starbucks' by the thousands. Last week, Starbucks Workers United finally got the chance to submit its terms to corporate Starbucks reps, and the union is demanding a $20/hour starting wage, credit card tipping, consistent hours, and more accessible healthcare. Change is at Starbucks' front door — and, now, it looks like even the company's shareholders are on board.

Starbucks' shareholders just voted to approve a human rights impact assessment of the company's labor practices, reports Reuters. The assessment will be conducted by an independent third party. Starbucks Workers United shared the news via Twitter yesterday evening. "A vote like this is UNPRECEDENTED and highlights just how worried shareholders are about Starbucks' behavior towards our union under Howard Schultz's leadership," the Tweet celebrated. "Between workers, customers, US Senators, federal judges, and now shareholders, Starbucks is beginning to be held accountable."

An unflattering reflection

At his Senate hearing yesterday, Schultz insisted that Starbucks "has not broken the law." But, it looks like even shareholders are beginning to question the accuracy of that testimony now. However, the shareholders' decision to review the company's labor practices was far from unanimous: the vote only won with 52% (per Reuters). Still, the fact that it was approved by a majority (even a small majority) marks a major shifting of the tides from shareholder approval away from corporate Starbucks and towards its "partners," the company's term for its employees.

How is corporate taking the news? Perhaps unsurprisingly, the public persona remains pretty unfazed. "It is clear from the vote result in the proposal that our investors share our commitment to our partners," reads a statement from Starbucks. Yet, as Sharon Block of the National Labor Relations Board testified at Schultz's Senate hearing yesterday: "The scope of Starbucks' violations, alleged and found so far, is beyond the scope of the anti-union campaigns that I have witnessed during my career as a labor lawyer... These violations should not be understood as isolated acts but rather should be viewed as a coordinated campaign to stifle union activity across the company."

The labor practice assessment was proposed by New York City's public pension funds and individual supporters. Collectively, the group accounts for 2.2 million company shares – and judging by the outcome of this most recent vote, the company should be sweating.