Starbucks Allegedly Encouraged Boycott Of Unionized Stores

Since Starbucks workers began a major push for unionization back in 2021, tensions between the company and its pro-union store employees have steadily risen. The dramatic saga has been filled with multiple lawsuits over corporate's alleged retaliation against union workers, including wrongful terminations, as well as a stream of aggressive union-busting tactics, from benefit exclusions to threats and surveillance.

The latest chapter of contention between the coffee giant and its unionized workers involves the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. Following a controversial post regarding the Israel-Hamas war by the official X (formerly known as Twitter) account of Starbucks Workers United, the union is accusing Starbucks higher-ups of encouraging a boycott of unionized stores.

In the aftermath of the attack on Israeli civilians by the militant group Hamas on October 7, 2023, the union posted "Solidarity with Palestine" on the social media platform. In response to the post, which has since been deleted, the company issued a statement to publicly separate itself from the union's stance. "Workers United's words and actions belong to them, and them alone," the corporate office wrote (per CNN).

The union's statement in support of Palestine sparked outrage among pro-Israel groups and individuals, with many calling for a boycott of the coffee shops. Now, Starbucks Workers United is alleging that the company shared a list of 300 unionized locations with the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce (OJCC) as "stores to avoid," according to a report by Restaurant Business News.

Starbucks union workers fear targeted harassment

The list has since been shared on the chamber's website, along with a statement that claims Starbucks' leadership, including former CEO Howard Schultz, reached out to the OJCC to condemn the union's postings. The chamber itself says that the Starbucks corporate office shared the list of unionized stores in order to aid in the group's call for a boycott. Despite the claims made by the OJCC, however, a spokesperson for Starbucks told Restaurant Business News that the list of unionized stores to boycott did not, in fact, come from the company.

After the list was shared, Workers United filed a complaint against Starbucks with the National Labor Relations Board, expressing fears of targeted harassment and violence towards unionized staffers. The union is accusing the company of stoking these fears by sharing the list, and by falsely equating the union's pro-Palestinian social media messaging with support for terrorism and violence. According to the filing, Workers United feels that Starbucks corporate is "using the current global tragedy against its own employees to chill support for the union," as well as threatening the safety of employees with defamatory statements against the union.

The union's postings about the Middle Eastern conflict have also led to an exchange of lawsuits over trademark infringement. Per the Associated Press, Starbucks is suing the union for using the company's name and a similar green logo. The Starbucks Workers United group, meanwhile, is asking a court to uphold its usage rights.