Starbucks Keeps Battling The Union

There is a story in The New York Times in which billionaire and longtime CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, describes his relationship with Starbucks store employees. . It says he is not against the union, which has been able to organize Starbucks workers in several stores. Instead, unions prevent Starbucks workers from being “model” employees. That is not likely. The union’s primary purpose is to get workers more pay and better benefits. Starbucks is among the large fast-food chains with low hourly wages.

Another recent story at CNBC has a map of where workers have voted to organize or, alternately, where their efforts have failed. The map shows the surge that Schultz faces back at Starbucks as the interim CEO. On-deck CEO Laxman Narasimhan will face the same map when he takes over on April 1. Since Schultz has the habit of coming back as CEO when he does not believe things are going well, he may be back again if unions begin to take the upper hand nationwide.

The CNBC map shows that workers at 263 stores in 40 states have joined. Starbucks has 15,836 locations nationwide. It will be hand-to-hand combat with Starbucks management to get most of those unionized. For the worker’s effort to succeed at all, it will take years to work, and Schultz knows it.

Schultz needs to hold the line at a $15 minimum wage for his workers, although it is barely what is called a “living wage.” Starbucks had revenue of $32.3 billion last year. It made $3.3 billion. That is a thin margin.

Schultz may be about to retire again. The question is whether he will be back if he is unhappy. The union could cause that.

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