One of the points I’ve made repeatedly about the recent wave of organizing is that it engaging in performatively liberal companies who use those politics to attract both liberal workers and liberal customers, even though they treat the workers as bad as any other company. So of course Starbucks is going to go right after the said liberal benefits as revenge for unionization.
In a complaint filed on Monday with the National Labor Relations Board, workers at an Oklahoma City Starbucks allege that they were pulled into a meeting and told by management that they could lose access to trans-inclusive healthcare offered by the company if their union effort succeeds, Bloomberg reports. Starbucks first announced in 2013 that it would expand its healthcare benefits to include gender confirmation surgery and in 2018 expanded that benefit to cover other procedures, like breast augmentation and facial feminization surgery. Of course, without a union, those benefits have always been available to employees on Starbucks’s terms, meaning that they could have been unilaterally rescinded at any time.
Although the company denies that it has threatened to withhold benefits for unionizing workers — likely because that practice is illegal under the National Labor Relations Act — it’s a common tactic for anti-union employers like Starbucks. If found true, the allegations of threatening to withhold these lifesaving benefits would be in keeping with Starbucks’s treatment of the union since the first stores voted to unionize in 2021. The company has engaged in a wide range of anti-union actions, from firing workers involved in organizing campaigns to interim CEO Howard Schultz yelling at a barista who asked him why the company has assumed such an aggressively anti-union posture. On June 10, workers at an Ithaca Starbucks that had unionized said that they were given less than a week’s notice that their store would close. Two other (non-union) Ithaca locations remain open.Starbucks has faced dozens of unfair labor practice charges from the union, and in May, the NLRB ruled that the company had to reinstate — and compensate with back pay — seven workers at a Memphis location who were fired by the company in retaliation for their involvement with the union. Also in May, Starbucks announced that it would raise its minimum wage to $15 at all locations, but said that it planned to withhold future pay increases from workers at stores that have voted to unionize.
The liberal benefits get stripped away when the company shows it true colors of unionbusting.