Starbucks criticizes Biden’s visit with union leaders, requests White House meeting

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on economic growth, jobs, and deficit reduction in the Roosevelt Room on Wednesday May 4, 2022.

Demetrius Freeman | The Washington Post | Getty Images

Starbucks is asking the White House for a meeting after President Joe Biden met with an organizer who is helping its coffee shops unionize.

The president met with 39 national labor leaders on Thursday, including Christian Smalls, who heads the Amazon Labor Union, and Laura Garza, a union leader at Starbucks’ New York City Roastery. Biden has been a vocal supporter of unions, from the campaign trail to his time in the Oval Office, during a time when high-profile labor drives at companies such as Amazon, Apple and Conde Nast are making headlines.

A.J. Jones, Starbucks’ head of global communications and public affairs, wrote in a letter Thursday that the decision to not invite any representatives from the company was deeply concerning.

“We believe this lack of representation discounts the reality that the majority of our partners oppose being members of a union and the unionization tactics being deployed by Workers United,” Jones wrote in the letter to Steve Ricchetti, one of Biden’s closest advisors. “As you know, American workers have the absolute right to decide for themselves to unionize, or not to unionize, without any undue influences.”

As of Wednesday, six Starbucks locations have voted against unionizing. But baristas at more than 50 Starbucks cafes across the U.S. have voted in favor of unionizing under Workers United over the last six months. Roughly 200 cafes are still waiting for their elections or to hear their votes counted.

Jones requested a meeting at the White House for the opportunity to introduce Biden’s administration to workers who have different perspectives than the union. A representative from the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNBC.

Starbucks is waging a campaign to curb the spread of unionization across its coffee shops. Workers United has filed more than 100 unfair labor practices complaints against the company, alleging illegal retaliation and harassment. The National Labor Relations Board has filed at least three lawsuits against Starbucks. The company has denied those claims but has filed two of its own complaints against Workers United.

On Tuesday, Starbucks said it would spend $1 billion in fiscal 2022 on investments in its stores and workers. Those investments include another wage hike for tenured employees, doubling training for new workers and plans to add tipping for debit and credit card users.

“These benefits, including ones we’ve demanded since the beginning of our campaign, are a response to our organizing efforts and we should celebrate the hard work that partners who stood up to [CEO] Howard Schultz’s bullying put in to make this happen,” the Starbucks Workers United Organizing Committee said in a statement to CNBC on Tuesday. “Many of the proposed benefits have been proposed at the bargaining table in Buffalo.”

Schultz himself publicly flirted with running for president as an independent during the run-up to the 2020 election.

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