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OPINION: Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz must stop union-busting and worker retaliation

OPINION: Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz must stop union-busting and worker retaliation

OPINION: Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz must stop union-busting and worker retaliation

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As hundreds of Starbucks stores move forward with unionizing efforts, the company and its CEO Howard Schultz have been engaged in unprecedented union-busting efforts across two dozen states, according to the Washington DC non-profit organization More Perfect Union.

More Perfect Union has documented dozens of illegal firings, hour cuts, wage abuses, and other forms of retaliation against workers who are demanding better working conditions from a company making record profits. Starbucks’ net income more than quadrupled to $1.76 billion in the fourth quarter of 2021. 

A new leaked video showed that Phoenix Starbucks shift supervisor Laila Dalton was driven to tears after she was reprimanded in a union-busting effort. Dalton was unfairly disciplined and harassed after handing out union cards to coworkers and eventually unjustly fired. The company was hit with an NLRB charge over it.

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How does billionaire Howard Schultz react to all this on his first day back as chief executive of Starbucks? He makes himself the victim by claiming during a town hall that U.S. companies are “being assaulted” by unionization drives.

“Here’s where it gets a little sensitive, because I’ve been coached a little bit,” said Schultz. “But I do want to talk about something pretty serious. We can’t ignore what is happening in the country as it relates to companies throughout the country being assaulted, in many ways, by the threat of unionization.”

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This is Schultz’s third time serving as CEO at the company, and he has a long track record of anti-union activities, leading current employees and observers to believe that he has been brought back to lead the charge against workers seeking to unionize. Schultz is so unhinged in his vitriol against unions that he has actually compared Starbucks workers to Holocaust victims sharing blankets at concentration camps during an anti-union speech.

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Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s History of Union-Busting

Starbucks Workers United (SWU), an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, responded to Schultz by tweeting that “Starbucks’ best days are ahead of us because we are standing together as partners to hold Starbucks accountable to the company we believe it can be.”

“At today’s town hall in Seattle, Howard Schultz just said that ‘there is a group—an organization—trying to take our people,'” SWU wrote. “Newsflash: Our union isn’t trying to take Starbucks’ people—our union is Starbucks’ people!”

The record profits made by Starbucks are possible because of the workers who keep the stores stocked and running, and who provide the customer service that keeps clientele coming back day after day. It is despicable that this greedy company is now retaliating against those who are organizing for better working conditions.

There have been well over 65 unfair labor complaints filed by Starbucks workers over the past few months alone. It’s time for the NLRB to make Starbucks face real consequences for their disgusting anti-worker, union-busting behavior.

Thomas Kennedy is an elected Democratic National Committee member representing Florida. He tweets from @tomaskenn.

Original reporting by More Perfect Union.

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Thomas Kennedy
is a former reported opinion columnist and roving correspondent. He's an elected member of the Democratic National Committee from Florida and a fomer Director of Sunshine Agenda Inc. a government transparency nonprofit organization.

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