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The recent unionization efforts of Starbucks employees led the company to raise their salaries. However, as the salary increase makes it to the company the company calendar – scheduled to be enforced this Monday, labor leaders call for extended benefits. According to them, no bargain should be made.
Last May, Starbucks announced that it would increase the salaries of its workers following the unionization efforts of its workers. The company has also said that along with the wage hike are added benefits like credit card tipping. However, a Starbucks chain based in Seattle said that it would not extend the benefits since they have to undergo a bargaining process first.
This led for the call to be made.
Labor union leaders wrote to Starbucks CEO Howard Shcultz said that the benefits can be offered to the employees in unionized stores without bargaining. The letter further takes note of other benefits like swifter sick time accrual and reimbursement of medical travel, especially those looking for abortion and gender care.
“Workers United refuses to stand by while Starbucks cynically promises new benefits only to non-unionized workers and withholds them from our members,” said the letter signed by the president of Workers United, Lynne Fox.
Of the 9,000 locations that Starbucks has, 200 stores have already unionized. 40 is still in the voting process, reveals a data from the National Labor Relations Board.
As a response, Starbucks website shows a factsheet that says, “The law is clear: once a store unionizes, no changes to benefits are allowed without good faith collective bargaining.”
The site says that while employees have access to the benefits that were available when they filed the petition, bargaining is allowed if it’s about subsequent adjustments to working conditions, benefits, and wages.
Legal counsels say that the case may reach the administrative law judge of the National Labor Relations Board.
“Once a union has been certified, an employer is obligated to bargain with that union before making any changes to terms and conditions of employment,” Stephen Holroyd said, a lawyer at Jennings Sigmond known for his expertise in dealing with labor unions and who was worked for the NLRB.
Holroyd further said that the move by the union could mean that Starbucks is doing what it is doing solely because of the unionization efforts.
More benefits allowed
A lawyer at Stevens & Lee, Daniel Sobol, said that the federal courts and the NLRB have different takes on the issue.
“If [ benefit enhancements are] done solely to chill unionizing, that could be an issue,” Sobol added. Moreover, he justified that Starbucks may not be obligated to impose the increase to the unionized employees because of the inflation.
The attorney for the Starbucks Workers United said that it has sent two cases to the docket. He added that the benefits that Starbucks is currently offering is clearly in response to the unionization efforts of its employees.
Director of the Industrial and Labor Relations school in Cornell University in Buffalo, New York, Catherine Creighton, said that, “if the union says they have no objection, then the employer can absolutely give them that benefit.” She added that under the law, companies are required to send a notice to the union and offer a bargaining opportunity.
According to Starbucks, it is pouring over $1 billion for employee’s wage hikes, as well as trainings and store innovations during the later part of its fiscal year 2022. Starbucks CEO cancelled the buyback program of the company so it could its resources to the improvement of its stores and increasing the benefits of its workers.
The wage increase will be enforced this week. Employees with at least 2 years of experience are going to see a 5% increase in their paychecks. Those with more than 7 years of experience will see a 7% increase or a 10% increase above the market rate.
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