Starbucks announced Wednesday that it would replace Kevin Johnson, its CEO, with Howard Schultz, former CEO. Union organizers claim this is a direct attack on their union drive.
In a press call with Congressional Labor Caucus members on Wednesday, union organizers said that they’re wary of Schultz and his anti-union attitude. They claim that Schultz told organizing workers that the union drive was a personal insult.
“I think it’s very clear why they brought Howard back in,” said Starbucks Workers United organizer and Buffalo employee Casey Moore. The board believes that “Howard is the only person who can convince workers to not unionize,” Moore said.
Buffalo worker and union organizer Jaz Brisack said that Schultz is “coming out of the shadows to lead this fight against the union.” Brisack noted that when the New York workers began their campaign, the company brought out a “Buffalo SWAT team” made up of company executives to fight the union, including Schultz.
Indeed, Starbucks board chair Mellody Hobson said on CNBC on Wednesday that Schultz is “Uniquely capable of engaging with our people in a way that will make a difference.” During the company shareholder meeting the same day, Hobson said that the company will not take a neutral stance on unionizing, as major shareholders have requested, because it would limit “our ability to speak to our partners in certain ways.”
Starbucks Workers United has asked Schultz to sign onto the group’s “Fair Election Principles” asking for non-interference during the union campaign. Rep. Donald Norcross (D.New Jersey), co-chair of the Labor Caucus, echoed this appeal in a press conference on Wednesday. “Howard, do the right thing here,” Norcross said. “Give these workers a voice.”
Schultz, who stepped down as CEO in 2017, has been involved with the business as executive chairman. He traveled to Buffalo last summer to convince workers to support their union campaign. In a speechSchultz bizarrely made a comparison between the company and Holocaust victims. He also repeatedly referred to workplace problems that unionizing workers had complained of.
Schultz, who most likely would have been the U.S. Labor SecretaryHillary Clinton, even if she had won the presidency, has a history of being against unions at Starbucks for decades. In his 1999 memoir, he describes leading the company. Schultz wroteHe sees unionization as an insult to him and his leadership. “I was convinced that under my leadership, employees would come to realize that I would listen to their concerns. If they had faith in me and my motives, they wouldn’t need a union,” he wrote. Schultz was reappointed as CEO in 2000. He then returned to the role from 2008 to 2017.
Starbucks workers have tried to unionize before — drives in the Pacific NorthwestIn the late 1990s and early2000s in New YorkIn the late 2000s, the company was faced with strong opposition. Schultz was in charge of the company during many years. Labor leaders at Seattle Starbucks stores and a local roasting plant that were unionized in the late ‘80s, when Schultz first took ownership of the company, said that Schultz was extremely hostile toward them.
The first time Pam Blauman-Schmitz, local union representative for the United Food and Commercial Workers, visited the plant under Schultz’s leadership in the late ‘80s, “He went ballistic screaming at me, telling me to get out of the plant,” Blauman-Schmitz told The New York Times. “He followed me all the way out.”
The current union campaign, which has already resulted in six unionized stores for the company, is however the largest ever. About 145 stores have so far filed to unionize, and the filings are coming in at a phenomenally fast pace — The union was established just weeks ago. We were thrilled to have received filings from more than 100 stores.
As the union campaign has grown, the company’s union-busting moves have gotten bolder. Starbucks recently Begin to reduce hoursEmployees across the board, a move workers claim is intended to financially and psychologically manipulate pro-union workers.
Workers met with the Congressional Labor Caucus on Wednesday to ask lawmakers to intensify the pressure campaign against Starbucks. The company’s stock has fallenOver the past six months, shareholders have askedThe campaign has caused bad publicity and the company decided to soften its stance on union issues.
“No workers should go through what we’re going through,” said Brisack. The workers Joined the caucusIn calling for the passage the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO) Act. This would allow workers to unionize in the U.S.A. and impose harsher penalties on employers who break the union rules.