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Group behind Starbucks' unionization runs into its own labor problem

Employees of the Service Employees International Union say they intend to strike for higher wages. They also accuse the union of being guilty of what it has alleged Starbucks is doing.
Some employees of the SEIU say the group itself can be anti-union. / Photo: Shutterstock

The union behind the organization of Starbucks suffered an ironic role reversal Wednesday when its employees went on strike in a push for higher wages.

The workers hit the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) with many of the same accusations an affiliate of the union has hurled at Starbucks and other restaurant employers. The employees, members of the SEIU’s Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), charged the parent group with delaying contract negotiations and trying to bust the subordinate union.

“Unionized staff at @SEIU are demanding the same respect, protection and pay that [SEIU President] @MaryKayHenry preaches when she says we need #UnionsForAll,” the OPEIU tweeted.

The post and other tweets carried the tagline, “SEIU and Mary Kay Henry: Live your values. Practice what you preach.”

Instead, the group alleged, Henry and her organization have used “corporate tricks.”

SEIU had not responded to a request for comment as of publication time. 

The same accusations have been leveled incessantly at Starbucks since the staffs of three cafes in Buffalo, N.Y., announced their intention to unionize in August 2021. Since then, workers at more than 300 Starbucks units have voted to become part of Starbucks Workers United, which is affiliated with a group called Workers United. It, in turn, operates under the umbrella of the SEIU, which provides the groups’ funding.

All three of the unions—Starbucks Workers United, Workers United and the SEIU—have accused Starbucks of purposely delaying contract negotiations with the staffs of the organized stores. They allege that Starbucks is hoping the employees who voted to unionize will leave for jobs elsewhere and essentially undercut the staff’s determination in the collective bargaining process. 

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