A Starbucks Union? Surely You Jest.


I'm flabbergasted. There is apparently a group that is trying to unionize Starbucks employees, and they seem to be gaining support.

The City Council of Cambridge Massachusetts late yesterday became the first local government in the nation to condemn Starbucks' relentless anti-union campaign and support the Industrial Workers of the World organizing drive at Starbucks.

This surprises me because Starbucks has been a darling of the business press over the last decade for the way it treats employees. For example:

…enjoys tremendous publicity for the way it treats employees, backing up the idea that happy employees treat customers well. — from Starbucks case

All too often business professionals forget that their customers or employees want to feel good about the company and individuals with whom they do business. I spent some time with Starbucks (SBUX) founder Howard Schultz during the research for my first book. His passion is contagious, but interestingly, while he enjoys coffee, he is truly passionate about creating a workplace that treats employees with dignity and respect. He often says that Starbucks' success has much to do with the company's relationship with its employees. — from Businessweek

… Howard Schultz once told me that he communicates by telling stories. For example, when he tried to get skeptical investors to back the concept behind the "Bean Stock" program offering health benefits and stock options to part-timers, he told the story of his father who was left without a safety net when he broke his leg at work. Schultz is committed to building a company that treats employees with dignity and respect. — from Askmen.com

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One need only look at how Starbucks changed the coffee industry to see that a company that treats employees well, creates a fun experience for customers, and delivers a quality product can have the same industry-changing effect, regardless of the industry… — from WeldonBarber News

Starbucks employees have an 82 percent job-satisfaction rate, according to a Hewitt Associates Starbucks Partner View Survey. This compares to a 50 percent satisfaction rate for all employers and 74 percent for Hewitt's "Best Place to Work" employers. — from Workforce Management

Most of the comments to the complaint letters at PlanetFeedback are written by other customers who are blowing off steam about similar problems. Not in Starbucks' case. Most of the customer complaint letters have comments by regular Starbucks employees who weigh in to defend their employer! — from the IABC

Business is always changing, and things that seem like assets can become liabilities over time. Treat employees well and you get the best people, but over time they come to expect more. "Well" becomes the status quo. This is more proof that people don't always perceive things the same way.

  • SB

    Starbucks was already pricey. Now I expect the unions to drive it up to $3.00 for a small coffee.

  • Doug G

    It’s not like the IWW really thinks Starbucks employees are being mistreated. They see a very large employee base who would contribute a lot of money to the union if they unionize.

  • This is not the first unionizing effort. When I worked for Starbucks, the stores in British Columbia unionized. I am no longer aware of that situation.

    The fact is that no matter how well employees are treated, many still feel powerless. And unions offer an antidote to that feeling.


  • HotJavaJack

    Ugh. Clearly a clueless union (not that many of them actually give a damn about the rank and file). There is absolutely nothing the IWW can offer Starbucks employees that they don’t already have.

    Oh, and that powerless feeling will actually worsen when if any baristas out there are uninformed enough to vote in a union. Just wait until they figure out what they’re really getting for their dues!