Starbucks and Union Agree to Work Out Framework for Contract Talks

Starbucks and the union that represents employees in roughly 400 of its U.S. stores announced Tuesday that they were beginning discussions on a “foundational framework” that would help the company reach labor agreements with unionized workers and resolve litigation between the two sides.

The union greeted the development as a major shift in strategy for Starbucks, which has taken steps to resist union organizing at the company since the campaign began in 2021, moves that federal labor regulators have said violated labor law hundreds of times.

Starbucks, which has denied the accusations, said in a statement that it hoped to have contracts negotiated and ratified by the end of the year and would agree to a “fair process for organizing” — something the union has demanded for years. It said that, as a gesture of good faith, it was providing unionized workers with benefits it introduced in 2022 but withheld from union stores, like an option for customers to tip via credit card.

Representatives of both Starbucks and the union, Workers United, said that while details must be worked out, they hoped to be back at the bargaining table in the coming weeks. Negotiations between the two sides had largely lapsed over the past several months.

Workers who have helped lead the organizing said the development had surprised them. “It still feels pretty surreal right now,” said Michelle Eisen, a longtime barista at a Starbucks in Buffalo that was the first company-owned store to unionize during the current campaign. “There has not been a single call I’ve been on today where either I wasn’t crying or everyone else wasn’t crying.”

If a framework is agreed to and quickly leads to contracts, experts said, it could be a major development in labor relations in corporate America, where companies like Amazon and Apple have resisted union organizing to varying degrees.

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