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Starbucks Asks for New Year’s Resolution to Reboot Union Talks


Following months of legal posturing from parties on both sides of the Starbucks unionization push, the coffee giant today sent a letter to the union organizer asking for a reboot in collective bargaining negotiations.

“We collectively agree, the current impasse should not be acceptable to either of us,” Starbucks Executive Vice President and Chief Partner Officer Sara Kelly wrote in a letter to union group Workers United. “It has not helped Starbucks, Workers United or, most importantly, our partners. In this spirit, we are asking for your support and agreement to restart bargaining.”

(Note: Starbucks refers to its employees as “partners.”)

Today’s letter from Starbucks adopts a dramatically more diplomatic tone than Starbucks has used in previous statements and court records involving the negotiation impasse.

In testimony given to a U.S. Senate committee meeting in March, former Starbucks CEO accused the union organizers of insisting on “unlawful preconditions” for negotiations. Workers United, meanwhile, has accused Starbucks of delay and intimidation tactics.

In a statement shared with DCN today, Workers United President Lynne Fox said, “We just received the letter. We are reviewing it and will respond. We’ve never said no to meeting with Starbucks. Anything that moves bargaining forward in a positive way is most welcome.”

Workers at approximately 360 Starbucks locations — representing approximately 4% of the more than 9,000 company-operated Starbucks stores in the U.S. — have voted to unionize over the past two years. To this point, not one union contract has been ratified.

“For months now, Starbucks and Workers United have been at an impasse over how to conduct collective bargaining,” Starbucks’ Kelly wrote today. “I am writing in the hope to change that situation and to reaffirm our commitment to the collective bargaining process with the goal of reaching agreements in reasonable time frames.”

The company proposed resuming collective bargaining negotiations with a “set of representative stores” beginning in January.

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