Labor groups nominate 3 to the Starbucks board

The Strategic Organizing Center, a coalition of labor groups, is targeting the coffee giant’s board, arguing that the company’s fight against unions hurts the brand.
Starbucks board
A coalition of labor groups is taking its fight against Starbucks to the board of directors. | Photo courtesy of Starbucks.

Labor organizers are taking their fight against Starbucks directly to the company’s board.

The Strategic Organizing Center (SOC), a coalition of labor groups that includes the Service Employees International Union, nominated a trio of director candidates to the coffee giant’s board of directors.

The group nominated Marla Echaveste, former senior White House official, Joshua Gotbaum, who has been a director with public and private companies, and former NLRB Chair Wilma Liebman.

In so doing, the SOC argues that Starbucks’ efforts to counter a union organizing effort “has done irreversible damage” to the chain’s brand.

“For more than two years, Starbucks has gone to historic lengths to counter its employees’ campaign to have their voices heard,” the SOC said. “This has not only cost untold millions in legal fees and other expenditures, but the constant media, policymaker and regulatory scrutiny have caused potentially irreversible damage to the value of the company’s previously enviable brand.”

Starbucks in a statement said the company would review the director nominees and will make a formal recommendation. But the company also noted that its board is made up of “eight highly qualified directors, four of whom are new in the past year and seven of whom are independent.”

The company this week created a new committee of its board, called the Environmental, Partners and Community Impact Committee, that will oversee its response to regulations, environmental issues and “initiatives to strengthen” employee engagement and culture.

Starbucks also said that it has invested nearly $9 billion over the past three years to improve the employee and store experience, with a third of that going directly into wages. “These investments have led to a more consistent partner experience in company-operated stores across the U.S.,” the company said, noting that turnover is now below pre-pandemic levels and hourly cash compensation is up by nearly 50% since 2020.

Starbucks and labor groups have been at odds over the past couple of years, as unions have made inroads at more than 300 of the chain's locations across the country. But labor groups have accused the company of refusing to bargain with its union and have filed 120 complaints accusing Starbucks of violating federal labor laws. 

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