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| 1 minute read

A New Frontier? Starbucks Signals a CBA With Baristas May Soon Be On Tap

The ongoing union drive at Starbucks took off in 2022 after several cafés in Buffalo, New York were the first to unionize in December 2021. In addition to an explosion of union election petitions that followed, the saga has produced a plethora of labor law case studies, from labor law litigation over employee discharges to one-day strikes and walkouts to attempts by some baristas to decertify the union. 

The one thing not seemingly produced, yet, is a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the union and the coffee giant. That may be about to change.

According to a recent report from Axios, Starbucks shared the following update on a CBA: “Starbucks and Workers United have agreed to begin discussions on a foundational framework designed to achieve both collective bargaining agreements for represented stores and partners, and the resolution of litigation between the union and the company."

Notably, the union shared a similar sentiment with the media outlet: “As a sign of good faith, Starbucks has agreed to provide workers represented by Workers United with credit card tipping and benefits announced by the company in May of 2022.” 

We'll see if this “framework” comes together and what it looks like. We are more than two years in, and no CBA has been reached on a national or local level at any of the hundreds of unionized cafés. This is likely, at least in part, due to the fact “first contracts” often take a long time to negotiate.

Why does bargaining for a first union contract take so long? Negotiations generally entail both sides submitting competing proposals covering the full gamut of issues governing the workers’ employment. From wages to benefits to vacations to overtime procedures to job bidding to work rules, there is a lot of ground to cover. And the pandemic injected a host of new issues for both sides to cover as well, such as personal protective equipment, social distancing policies, etc. 

In contrast, when the parties have had a CBA in place for years and terms are relatively mature, the process typically goes much quicker given the prior bargaining history they have to work from. 

In situations where the parties are working toward a first contract, that often means they are building the contract from the ground up and have no foundation to work from. For Starbucks, where there are hundreds of cafés spread across many states, negotiating a CBA likely compounds these issues even more.

We'll see if and when Starbucks and its unions can come to an agreement. Stay tuned.




labor and employment