As more and more Starbucks locations file for unionization each week, the company has launched a new anti-union website full of misinformation and propaganda against unionization.
“We are one Starbucks” reads the top of the website’s landing page. Throughout the website, the company brags about its supposed progressive values and about its treatment of employees – who the company calls “partners” – and encourages workers to do their own research on unionization. Then, on pages entitled “frequently asked questions,” “10 things to know about a union,” and others, the company parrots anti-union talking points that union-busting companies frequently use to discourage organizing efforts.
A link to the website was sent to employees as part of the company’s weekly update emails that workers are required to review and sign off on, according to Brian Murray, a New York Starbucks worker and organizer with Starbucks Workers United. The existence of the website, Murray said, could be evidence that the company is attempting to streamline anti-union messaging as the unionization wave grows.
The website claims that Starbucks is encouraging workers to vote “no” on the union because a union would drive a wedge between management and employees – something that organizers say the company has already done on its own by not listening to partners when they bring up concerns about the workplace. The company also uses the website to defend their decision to hire at least 30 union-busting lawyers to combat the union drive, saying that they want to do everything legally.
The website even claims that the company is “meeting and exceeding all COVID safety measures,” even though unionizing stores across the country have almost uniformly said that the company has failed to provide a safe working environment in regards to COVID-19.
The website comes as workers are filing for unionization at a rapid rate. More than 80 stores have filed to unionize so far, and the company appears to have become increasingly desperate to bust the union efforts. Last week, it fired seven workers in a unionizing store in Memphis, Tennessee; Starbucks Workers United says that these workers represented the entirety of the store’s organizing committee.
Murray said that the talking points on the website are familiar to him and other workers because the company has been using them since the beginning of the union campaign. “This just shows how Starbucks has been anti-union all the time,” he said.
Murray believes that the website could ultimately work against the company because it exposes talking points that employees can anticipate hearing at anti-union meetings that they are required to attend. The website “makes the public aware of all their messaging, coming directly from Starbucks,” said Murray. “It’s not just us reporting, and now Starbucks is putting it out there for everyone to see.”
Attempting to vilify organizing workers is another tactic that the company has been using from the beginning, Murray added. On its website, the company poses and answers a supposedly “frequently asked question”: “What can I do if another partner won’t leave me alone about supporting a union?”
The website answers the question by saying that pro-union workers can sometimes “be annoying” in discussing unionization, and encourages workers to talk to management or call a company hotline to talk about an organizer or otherwise. However, Murray said that he hasn’t heard of anyone being harassed by organizers and that pro-union employees take care to be understanding of differing opinions.
Another section of the website features a video that Murray said the company distributed when only a few stores had filed to unionize. In the video, an employee named Tatiana says that a union would compromise workers’ voices in the workplace – which is the antithesis of what unions typically set out to do.
“Do you wish to continue to have your voice used independently? Or do you want your voice to be represented by a union?” asks Tatiana. The video is filmed in front of the Delaware and Chippewa store in Buffalo, New York, which filed for unionization in late January.
The video then directs workers on how to mail in their ballots for their union election. “Vote no if you want to continue your direct relationship with Starbucks and pay no dues to the union. Vote yes if you want to pay dues and have a union represent you,” Tatiana narrates before checking “no” on the sample ballot.
The company also paints the union as revenue-seeking, emphasizing in the “frequently asked questions” section of the website that a union would collect dues. This, and saying that the union would take away workers’ voices, is a classic union-busting technique.
These messages are just two of the anti-union claims that the company spouts on the website; workers say that the company has been pushing similar talking points on employees in unionizing stores. Starbucks has been waging a brash anti-union campaign for months, holding mandatory anti-union meetings with employees and attempting to interfere with union elections.
The company is currently in the process of starting its first contract negotiations with its Genesee Street and Elmwood stores, two unionized locations in Buffalo, New York, where workers anticipate a tough fight ahead. Starbucks is using the contract negotiation as leverage, telling workers at non-unionized stores to wait for a finalized contract before deciding to vote on the union – a process which the company could drag out for years.
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