SEIU 1021

Starbucks workers find HELP in the United States Senate


In a jam-packed hearing room last Wednesday, March 29, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) heard testimony from members of Starbucks Workers United, an affiliate of SEIU, about the illegal retaliation they have faced for organizing. They also grilled former Starbucks chief executive officer Howard Schultz about his role in leading one of the most vicious union-busting campaigns in U.S. history.

Scores of Starbucks workers across the country traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend the hearing, where Schultz was forced to answer for the company’s retaliation against workers organizing unions in their stores. Schultz only agreed to testify under threat of subpoena.

“We would not have got to this point if were not for the tenacity, bravery, and militancy of these Starbucks workers,” said SEIU 1021 Vice President of Organizing Brandon Dawkins. “Workers in this country have the right to organize unions, engage in collective bargaining, and fight for fair wages, increased flexibility, health benefits, and basic worker protections.

“For far too long, Starbucks and its multi-billionaire owner have acted as though those laws do not apply to them. Starbucks says they respect the rights of workers to organize when we know that’s bulls**t. Starbucks faced the most National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) cases of any private employer over the last year. Even though Howard Schultz has resigned as Starbucks CEO, that does not absolve him of responsibility or of the consequences he has brought onto workers. He is and has always been the architect of Starbucks’ anti-union campaign. Make no mistake about that. These workers are at the forefront of a new, exciting organizing campaign for the labor movement. SEIU 1021 has their backs.”

In remarks prepared for the committee hearing with Schultz, U.S. Senator and HELP Committee ChairBernie Sanders broke down how Starbucks management has been treating its growing unionized workforce: “At Schultz’s direction, Starbucks has fought the attempts of workers every step of the way, resorting to delay tactics and significant escalation in union busting, including unlawfully firing employees, having the police called in response to a peaceful and lawful congregation of workers who were attempting to present their request for union recognition, and illegally shutting down unionized stores.”

Last week’s Senate HELP Committee hearing and the preceding week’s strike and protest culminate years of organizing efforts. Since December 2021, more than 7,000 Starbucks workers have organized over 280 stores, demanding that the corporation respect workers’ fundamental right to organize and bargain a fair contract.

In this same time, regional offices of the NLRB have issued more than 70 official complaints against Starbucks, prosecuting the company for over 1,300 specific alleged violations of federal labor law, including accusations that former CEO Howard Schultz threatened a worker who expressed support for organizing. NLRB administrative law judges have issued nine decisions, eight of which collectively found that the company has committed 130 violations.

The fight for workers’ respect and dignity continues, and the movement is brewing.