Experts skeptical Starbucks will bargain in good faith, stalls just the start
October 26, 2022
Contract negotiations between Starbucks and union workers have already stalled. The latest issue, Starbucks refusing to resume bargaining if the union allows workers to join meetings remotely. The following Cornell University experts are available for interviews.
Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research and a senior lecturer at Cornell’s ILR School, is an expert on union and employer strategies in organizing and bargaining.
“Delay is a frequent and effective tool used by employers in first contract bargaining, because the longer the negotiations drag on, the more turnover, fear, and frustration will work to undermine union support. Only 38% of union elections have a first contract within a year of winning elections, and nearly a third, still do not have a first contract more than three years after the election was held. This is because, unlike the election process where the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) can force an election on an unwilling employer, in bargaining, the employer can stall all it wants, and the worst penalty is an order telling it to bargain in good faith.
“More than that, Starbucks is no ordinary employer. Not only has the company run one of the most aggressive anti-union campaigns we have seen in decades, replete with discharges, store closings, benefit cuts, threats, surveillance, and harassment—it also challenged the legitimacy of NLRB. Therefore, it is reasonable to doubt that the company will bargain in good faith with the union.”
Cathy Creighton, director of the Buffalo Co-Lab at Cornell’s ILR School, previously worked for the NLRB, as well as with dozens of labor unions in the Buffalo, New York region.
“This is just one more tactic Starbucks is employing in its unprecedented war against its own workers for the simple reason that they want to have a say about what happens in their employees’ work lives.
“Currently Workers United and Starbucks are negotiating at ten bargaining tables. The NLRB case law is clear that the parties set to bargain can select their own bargaining representatives. In this case, the union selected bargaining representatives to appear by Zoom. Starbucks is refusing to allow the union’s representatives to appear remotely and is making the specious argument that this is ‘recorded bargaining.’ As anyone who has used Zoom knows, it is not recorded unless you hit record, and that is not happening here.”
Angela Cornell, professor of law, is an expert on employment law and director of the Labor Law Clinic at Cornell’s Law School.
“It appears that Starbucks is imposing conditions on the bargaining with the union, which can violate the statute. Starbucks has an obligation to bargain in good faith with the union, and the NLRB will look at the totality of the circumstances when evaluating whether Starbucks’ conduct violates it obligation to bargain under Section 8(a)(5).
“Starbucks has been accused of numerous unfair labor practices in the context of the unionizing campaigns around the country. The commission of unfair labor practices in the union campaigns around the country can also factor into the NLRB’s evaluation of whether it is engaging in good faith bargaining with the union.
“Overall Starbucks’ conduct throughout the union organizing drives has been deeply disturbing—and in many circumstances rises to the level of violating the statute that protects workers’ fundamental workplace rights.”