Starbucks is planning wage increases that will not apply to unionized workers

Starbucks announced on Tuesday that it is increasing salaries and expanding training at company-owned locations in the United States. But it said the changes would not apply to the newly organized shops, or to shops that may be in the process of organizing, such as those where workers have submitted a petition for union representation.

In a conversation with investors to discuss the company’s quarterly results, CEO Howard Schultz said the expenses would bring investment in workers and stores to nearly $ 1 billion for the fiscal year, and that it would help Starbucks keep pace with customer traffic.

“The investments will enable us to handle the increased demand – and deliver increased profitability – while delivering an enhanced experience to our customers and reducing the burden on our partners,” said Schultz, using the company’s concept for employees.

The initiative was announced as the union has won initial votes in more than 50 Starbucks stores, including several this week.

The salary increases follow an obligation to raise the company’s minimum hourly wage to $ 15 this summer and will include an increase of at least 5 percent for employees with two to five years of experience, or an increase to 5 percent above the starting salary rate in their market, whichever is greater.

Employees with more than five years of experience will receive an increase of at least 7 percent, or an increase to 10 percent above the starting salary in their market, whichever is greater.

The company will also increase the salaries of store managers.

The plans also provide for a doubling of the training hours that new baristas receive, as well as additional training for existing baristas and shift leaders.

In a formal indictment filed with the National Labor Relations Board, the union representing the newly unionized Starbucks workers – Workers United, a company of Service Employees International Union – has accused the company of forcing employees who voted in a union election by suggesting that it would withhold new benefits if they were unionized.

The company said that it was legally forbidden to unilaterally impose wage and benefit increases in stores where employees have signed up or will soon vote for a union. It noted that it must negotiate with a union about changes in wages or benefits.

But labor law experts said it may be illegal to withhold salaries and benefits from only unionized workers or employees who vote in a union.

Matthew Bodie, a former law firm lawyer who teaches law at Saint Louis University, said the announced salary increases could illegally worsen the so-called laboratory conditions that should prevail during a union election by giving employees an incentive not to sign up.

“If Starbucks said, ‘Drop the union campaign and you’ll get this pay raise and better benefits,’ it would clearly be illegal,” Mr Bodie said in an email. “Hard to see how this is so much different in practice.”

Mr. Bodie said that the wage increases could also constitute a breach of the company’s duty to negotiate in good faith because they propose an intention to give unionized workers a worse deal than non-unionized workers. “They must at least offer this package to the union,” Mr. Bodie added.

Reggie Borges, a Starbucks spokeswoman, did not say whether the company would come up with the same proposals that were announced Tuesday in negotiations with unionized workers, but said: “Where Starbucks is required to participate in collective bargaining, Starbucks will always negotiate in good faith. “

Starbucks also said it plans to put out brochures in stores to keep employees informed, where the company says the outcome of collective bargaining is uncertain and risky. “Through collective bargaining, wages, benefits and working conditions can be improved, reduced or remain the same,” it says in one of the information sheets to be posted in the shops.

Such reports are common among employers facing trade union campaigns, but labor experts say it is misleading because it is highly unlikely that workers will see compensation fall as a result of collective bargaining.

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