Ann Arbor Starbucks employees join national union drive

Employees demand higher wages, schedule system changes

FILE - This Oct. 27, 2020, file photo shows a sign at a Starbucks Coffee store in south Seattle. Workers at a Seattle Starbucks store in the city's Capitol Hill neighborhood are set to vote on unionization on Tuesday, March 22, 2022, the latest push by workers at the coffee giant to form collective bargaining units. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File) (Ted S. Warren, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

ANN ARBOR – Starbucks employees at the city’s Carpenter Road location were the latest to join a national effort to unionize on Tuesday morning.

In total, six Starbucks locations in Ann Arbor are petitioning for a union election as scores of locations around the country take action to unionize. Coffee workers nationwide have joined the Starbucks Workers United movement, and a total of 12 Michigan stores have joined the effort, according to a press release.

On Tuesday morning, Starbucks employees at the Carpenter Road branch emailed a letter signed by its union organizing committee to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, which read:

At Carpenter, we are organizing to hold Starbucks accountable and ask that you honor us as true partners by including us in the conversations and policies that directly affect our livelihood and impact the unique experiences we are able to provide for our customers.

Schultz, who served as Starbucks’ CEO for more than three decades, rejoined the company as interim CEO on April 4 after former CEO Kevin Johnson announced his departure.

In a recent town hall with Starbucks employees, Schultz told his workers, whom the company calls partners: “I’m not an anti-union person. I am pro-Starbucks, pro-partner, pro-Starbucks culture. We didn’t get here by having a union.”

FILE - Howard Schultz speaks at an event to promote his book, "From the Ground Up," in Seattle on Jan. 31, 2019. Starbucks President and CEO Kevin Johnson said Wednesday, March 16, 2022, he will retire next month, and former CEO and company founder Howard Schultz will replace him on an interim basis. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Schultz also recently announced the company is planning to “invest more” in its employees and stores by halting its stock repurchasing program.

Starbucks has faced union busting accusations in recent years and employees are now demanding higher wages, scheduling and tip system changes, among other things.

“Starbucks is a multimillion dollar corporation that tries to pride itself on working in partnership with its employees, all while silencing the workers and denying them their right to union representation and a collective voice,” Workers United International vice president Kathy Hanshew said in a statement. “Starbucks calls its employees ‘partners,’ but it is abundantly clear that this so-called partnership is one of convenience for the company, that leaves many employee concerns unheard.

“It is time for Starbucks to do the right thing, acknowledge the voice of their ‘partners,’ and allow their workers to unionize without interference.”

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.