Starbucks union requests wage increases apply at unionized stores

A labor union representing workers at nearly 200 Starbucks locations has asked the company to extend new wage and benefit increases to unionized employees.

Lynne Fox, the international president of Workers United, sent a letter to Starbucks interim CEO Howard Schultz dated July 15 waiving the union’s bargaining rights to wage increases and Starbucks’ other recently announced benefit improvements.

“Unfortunately, Starbucks has claimed that it cannot legally provide these new or improved benefits to employees represented by Workers United without first bargaining,” Fox wrote in the letter, which was first obtained by CNBC

“Workers United knows that these statements are misleading at best and false at worst; Starbucks is permitted by law to offer these benefits to employees at unionized stores with the Union’s agreement,” she added.

The union said the pay increases, which become effective on Monday, increase employees’ hourly rates to either $15 per hour or by 3 percent, whichever is higher, with additional increases for tenured employees.

Fox in the letter also noted benefit changes like access to new training programs, dress code updates, faster sick time accrual and in-app and credit-card tipping.

“The truth is, unionized workers were the ones who pressured Starbucks into giving these benefits in the first place,” Maggie Carter, a barista from Knoxville, Tenn., said in a union press release. “Without our union campaign, none of these benefits would have been announced.”

When reached for comment, a Starbucks spokesperson pointed to the company’s fact sheet on unionization.

“The law is clear: no changes to terms and conditions of employment are allowed without good faith collective bargaining,” the fact sheet reads.

Fox’s letter indicates that the union, which represents 162 stores, is not waiving other bargaining obligations but was instead making clear the union did not object to the company providing unionized employees with the recent benefits and wage changes.

Workers at dozens of Starbucks stores in the U.S. have formed unions in the past few months, with employees citing struggles with work conditions and making a living wage.