OPINIONWorkforce

What unionized Starbucks employees are demanding in their contracts

Working Lunch: The big ask is for a guarantee of 37 scheduled hours per week, set months in advance.

Nineteen months after starting to organize the restaurant industry’s second-largest chain, Starbucks Workers United has finally revealed what its members are demanding from the coffee giant.

The labor group said it will press for a starting wage of $20 an hour, though the minimum could be higher in some markets; health insurance that costs employees nothing in premiums; a guarantee of at least 37 scheduled hours per week, scheduled monthly; and the finalization of schedules months in advance.

“Starbucks Workers Union has finally laid its cards on the table,”  Joe Kefauver, co-host of the Working Lunch government-affairs podcast, said in this week’s episode. “Let the games begin.”

Kefauver and co-host Franklin Coley predicted that the pay provision will add topspin to a movement already underway to establish $20 an hour as the lowest wage organized labor will accept for restaurant workers. “Instead of the Fight for 15, we now have the Tussle for 20,” said Kefauver, referring to the union-backed campaign technically called Fight for $15 and a Union.

Yet the scheduling provisions were the standout demands for Kefauver. “Those are going to give operators a lot of reason for a lot of pause,” Kefauver said.

He asserted that Starbucks Workers United might be willing to compromise on the $20 wage while hammering out labor contracts with the staffs of nearly 300 unionized Starbucks units, but “my guess is it won’t budge on that scheduling piece.”

The episode assesses the likely impact of the contract demands, drawing context from recent corporate developments and Starbucks’ annual shareholders meeting last Thursday. Acting chain CEO Howard Schultz surrendered his duties to his successor, Laxman Narasimhan, who wasn’t scheduled to assume the post until April 1.

Coley speculated that the changeover was accelerated because Schultz is expected to appear on March 29 before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Bernie Sanders. Now Schultz will have the greater latitude of testifying as a former CEO, and not the current holder of the job.

Kefauver and Coley are principals in the government-affairs consulting company Align Public Strategies. Working Lunch can be downloaded from wherever you get your podcasts.

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