US Senators ask Starbucks for information on union dealings

US Senators ask Starbucks for information on union dealings

Written by Hilary Ross

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Four US senators have asked Starbucks to reveal how much the coffee chain has spent on lawyers and consulting fees to counter growing union membership in hundreds of its US locations. Senators Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal, all Democrats and independent Bernie Sanders, who rallied with Democrats, sent their request in a letter late Tuesday to Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ 🙂 CEO Howard Schultz and its Board of Directors.

According to a copy of the letter seen by Reuters, they cited “reports that Starbucks is engaging in illegal union-busting tactics” and asked Starbucks to respond within a month.

“We appreciate every opportunity to share facts and address errors relating to our company and our partners, and we are confident in our strict adherence to federal labor law,” Starbucks said in response to the letter.

Employees at about 245 of the 9,000 Starbucks-owned locations in the United States have voted to join unions over the past year. The senators also said in their letter that they wanted to see the guidance Starbucks gave managers on how to handle unionized workers and whether spending expenditures to address unions are included in its tax returns. They also requested a list of changes the Seattle-based chain had made to nonunion employee benefits. The company is working to boost benefits, including expanded coverage for Monday adoption services that applies to all employees. But some other enhanced benefits, including hourly wage increases, were granted only to non-union employees. In notes emailed to Reuters, Warren said Starbucks “is using benefits and wage increases as a weapon to discourage workers from organizing.” Bargaining is tentatively scheduled to start on different days this month in some stores.

August, the National Labor Relations Board accused Starbucks of illegally withholding raises from union workers.

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Starbucks said on a company blog that labor law requires it to negotiate any changes in benefits or working conditions with the union that represents these employees.

(This story has been corrected to show some improvement in benefits granted to all employees regardless of guild status in the eighth paragraph)

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