On Friday, a group of House Democrats sent a scathing letter to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz accusing the coffee chain of using its benefits as a cudgel against union baristas.
“We are closely monitoring Starbucks’ extensive strategy of anti-union, intimidation and retaliatory action against employees,” they wrote in the letter, which is posted below.
Illinois Representatives Jan Schakowsky and Chuy Garcia led the missive. Lawmakers have asked Starbucks to clarify its new policy for reimbursing workers for travel expenses related to abortions following the recent Supreme Court Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
In a June letter to employees about the new benefit, Starbucks said “all partners” enrolled in the company’s health care plan would have access to it. But the letter adds that with respect to unionized stores, “Starbucks cannot make any promises or guarantees about benefits” because the two parties are negotiating contracts.
Lawmakers called on Schultz to “immediately issue clear guidelines on” the provision of abortion care. They warned that if the company continued its “scorched earth policy toward unions,” they would consider ending any mining rights the company may have on federal properties.
Starbucks told HuffPost in a statement that “Our communications have consistently indicated that Starbucks will provide all partners who participate in the company’s health insurance plan with access to abortion travel benefits and medical care. gender affirmation.
But the union campaign, Starbucks Workers United, accused the company of deliberately not knowing whether baristas would still be eligible for travel reimbursement if their store formed a union. According to Starbucks, travel expenses would be covered if an employee could not get an abortion within 100 miles of their home.
“Starbucks purposely did this to make it unclear whether or not baristas had access to this benefit,” said Casey Moore, a Starbucks employee who handles communications for the union campaign. “People were asking, ‘Do we have it or don’t we have it?’ Officials did not have the answer. They were saying contradictory things all over the country.
In its June letter to employees, Starbucks said that “even if we were to offer some benefit at the bargaining table, a union might decide to trade it for something else.”
The union has been locked in a tug of war with Starbucks while organizing more than 250 stores across the country over the past year. Benefits are one of the main battlefronts.
Starbucks rolled out a slew of new perks and wage increases, but noted it couldn’t “unilaterally” implement some of them at unionized stores. By law, employers cannot make certain changes to wages and benefits without consulting the workers’ union.
But the union, Workers United, waived its right to negotiate these new benefits, telling Starbucks to go ahead and apply them to unionized coffee shops. In response, Starbucks says the benefits must be negotiated with other proposals.
Although Starbucks says health care benefits are not being withheld, the union says managers have told workers they could lose benefits by unionizing.
On Tuesday, the general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board filed a lawsuit claiming, among other charges, that the company was using its transgender health benefits as a threat. Starbucks says the gender-affirming care benefit applies to all workers with health coverage, whether unionized or not. Yet the complaint alleges that a store manager in Ithaca, New York, warned employees they could lose him if they unionized.
The suit was one of several filed by the board’s general counsel accusing Starbucks of withholding or threatening to withhold benefits to punish union supporters and chill other workers about the organization.
In their Friday letter, House Democrats said Starbucks is using employee health care as a “weapon.”
“While Starbucks has accused various outside groups of interfering with union organizing efforts,” they wrote, “it is Starbucks that militarizes access to essential health care to intimidate and discourage employees from unionizing.”
This story has been updated with comments from Starbucks.
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