Starbucks Union Live Streaming A Bargaining Table At The Seattle Reserve

The Starbucks union continues to score a string of victories, but the state of the bargaining is looking a little more complicated. Starbucks Workers United, the organization behind the drive, has successfully unionized 350 stores, but winning elections is only one part of the unionization process. In order to actually secure the benefits and improvements in working conditions they are seeking, the union needs to negotiate and finalize contracts with Starbucks, a process which can take months, if not years. That process has been held up, with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleging that the company is deliberately negotiating in bad faith as a way to delay contracts from being finalized. Now Starbucks Workers United is taking a new approach to try and get the company to come to the bargaining table and work towards a contract.

According to an announcement Workers United made on Twitter (X), the union organization will be live streaming bargaining sessions on Twitch from August 11 to 17, as they wait for company leaders to show up. The streaming sessions will take place at the Seattle Reserve Roastery, with Starbucks Workers United saying that they will be leaving an "empty seat" for Starbucks management to show up and begin bargaining. 

In a statement to Tasting Table, Starbucks says it "[agrees] that partners at each of our union represented stores deserve to see progress towards first contracts tailored to their unique and personal needs," adding, "Workers United should demonstrate the same commitment to progress negotiations at the more than 300 open bargaining tables where they're representing partners as they do their table on Twitch. Despite the company's attempts to propose hundreds of bargaining sessions for individual stores across the country, Workers United has only met Starbucks in-person to progress negotiations for 10 stores over the past two years."

Starbucks and Workers United have been at odds over the bargaining procedure

The back and forth between Starbucks Workers United and the company over starting to negotiate has been going on for months. Back in March, the company and the union were at odds over the use of video conferencing during negotiations, with Starbucks insisting on completely in-person sessions, while the union claimed they had a clear right to bargain with some members attending virtually. Starbucks representatives reportedly walked out of bargaining sessions within minutes after some union reps joined remotely. The company claims its concern was over not being sure who was attending bargaining sessions, or watching the proceedings if they were being broadcast off-site. The NLRB, however, believes there is no basis for Starbucks to demand in-person only meetings.

Starbucks has also accused Workers United of frustrating bargaining by trying to negotiate on a regional or national basis, while it wants to negotiate store-by-store. The company says the union is directly contradicting a ruling by NLRB saying negotiation will be done on a single-store level. While stores across America continue to vote on unionizing, with locations in Indiana and New Jersey seeing victories just this week, the negotiating process continues to be stuck in the mud. Whether this Twitch stream moves Starbucks at all remains to be seen, but it's clear Starbucks Workers United is moving towards a new phase of trying to get the company to the table.