On the union front, it's open season on Starbucks

Working Lunch: Starbucks Workers United is stepping up its courtship of the public as it looks ahead to contract negotiations.

Starbucks has asked the U.S. Supreme Court for help in dealing with the union that’s hoping to make the coffee chain its first major restaurant conquest. Last week, the union signaled that it’s sticking to the court of public opinion, but with the volume now turned up to 11.

Starbucks Workers United fired one public-relations salvo after another at the home of the green apron, crowing one day that 21 more units had asked to be unionized, then pointing 24 hours later to efforts underway at 25 colleges to shut down on-campus branches.

The grab for public sympathy is likely to intensify as pressure builds on the union and Starbucks to hammer out collective bargaining agreements for the 386 green-awninged cafes that have already organized, according to this week’s Working Lunch podcast.

“They’re going to continue to ramp things up,” predicted co-host Franklin Coley, a principal of the Orlando, Fla.-based lobbying firm Align Public Strategies. “I’m sure they have more PR hits planned.”

The union’s goal is convincing Starbucks that it could lose customers and tarnish its progressive image if it resists employees’ demands with the general public looking on, suggested co-host and Align partner Joe Kefauver.

“Starbucks sales have been hurting for a lot of reasons, but no one has been able to make the connection between the union action and sales,” he commented.

How much fire might Starbucks actually catch in the PR barrage? And are there any implications for the industry as a whole?

Press "play" to find out.  

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