Starbucks criticizes Biden’s visit to union leaders and demands a meeting at the White House

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on economic growth, jobs and deficit reduction at Roosevelt Hall on Wednesday, May 4, 2022.

Demetrius Freeman | Washington Post | Getty Images

Starbucks is asking the White House for a meeting after President Joe Biden met with an organizer who helps his coffee shops unionize.

On Thursday, the president met with 39 national union leaders, including Christian Smalls, who leads the Amazon union, and Laura Garza, union leader at New York’s Starbucks Roastery. Biden has been a vocal pro-unionist from the campaign trail to his time in the Oval Office, at a time when high-profile job campaigns at companies like Amazon, Apple and Conde Nast are making headlines.

AJ Jones, head of global communications and public relations at Starbucks, wrote in a letter on Thursday that the decision not to invite company representatives was deeply concerning.

“We believe this lack of representation devalues ​​the fact that most of our partners oppose being union members and the unionization tactics used by Workers United,” Jones wrote in a letter to Steve Ricchetti, one of Biden’s closest advisers. “As you know, American workers have the absolute right to decide for themselves whether or not to unionize, without any undue influence.”

As of Wednesday, six Starbucks locations voted against unionization. But baristas at more than 50 Starbucks locations across the US have voted to unionize with Workers United over the past six months. Approximately 200 cafes are still waiting for the election or vote count.

Jones asked for a meeting at the White House to be able to introduce the Biden administration to workers who have views that differ from those of the union. The White House declined to comment.

Starbucks is campaigning to curb the spread of unions in its coffee shops. Workers United has filed over 100 unfair labor practices complaints against the company, alleging unlawful retaliation and harassment. The National Labor Relations Board has filed at least three lawsuits against Starbucks. The company denied these claims, but filed two complaints of its own against Workers United.

Starbucks said Tuesday it will spend $1 billion in fiscal 2022 to invest in its stores and employees. Those investments include another pay raise for full-time employees, doubling the training of new workers, and plans to add tips for debit and credit card users.

“These benefits, including those we have demanded since the beginning of our campaign, are a response to our organizational efforts and we must celebrate the hard work that partners who have stood up to [CEO] The bullying of Howard Schultz was made to make this happen,” the Starbucks Workers United Organizing Committee said in a statement to CNBC on Tuesday. “Many of the proposed benefits were offered at the negotiating table in Buffalo.”

Schultz himself publicly flirted with running for president as an independent during the run-up to the 2020 election.

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