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Starbucks and Union Reestablish Negotiations Following Improved Relations

Starbucks and the union representing its baristas have announced that they will be resuming contract negotiations after a prolonged stalemate. This development comes after both parties found a “constructive path forward” during mediation discussions regarding litigation over the union’s use of Starbucks’ branding. The decision marks a significant shift for Starbucks, which has been embroiled in a battle against Workers United and the broader movement to unionize its cafes for the past two years.

As of Monday, approximately 500 company-owned Starbucks locations in the U.S. have voted to unionize under Workers United since December 2021. However, none of these locations have managed to secure a collective bargaining agreement, despite their small fraction of the total U.S. footprint. The union, affiliated with the Service Employees International Union, has accused Starbucks of sabotaging previous negotiation talks, while Starbucks has insisted on face-to-face negotiations without representatives appearing via Zoom.

Although store agreements will be negotiated and ratified separately, the union may propose changes that could impact all Starbucks workers it represents. Workers United has advocated for higher wages, more consistent scheduling, and other priorities. While labor laws do not mandate a collective bargaining agreement, they require both parties to negotiate in good faith. Workers who lose faith in the union can petition to decertify after a year, setting a time limit on negotiations.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) currently has 19 pending petitions to decertify, with 18 others denied due to unfair labor practices by Starbucks. The company has also been engaged in negotiations with other unions representing its cafes, such as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

The resumption of contract negotiations coincides with Starbucks’ appearance before the Supreme Court to appeal a lower court’s approval of an injunction sought by the NLRB. The outcome of this appeal could potentially weaken the NLRB and organized labor as a whole. The Supreme Court is expected to release its decision in the summer.

The quarterly earnings call for Starbucks, scheduled for Tuesday, may shed further light on the progress of the union negotiations. The company’s results are highly anticipated by investors and analysts.

In conclusion, Starbucks and the union representing its baristas have returned to the negotiating table after an extended stalemate. Both parties have expressed optimism about finding a “constructive path forward” and resolving their differences. The outcome of these negotiations will have significant implications for the future of labor relations within Starbucks and the broader movement to unionize the company’s cafes.

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