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  • Workers at more than 200 Starbucks stores have unionized in just under a year.
  • Interim CEO Howard Schultz, who opposes those efforts, recently discussed the union drive sweeping the company in a WaPo interview.
  • “They’re angry at the world. They’re angry at their situation,” he said. “Our responsibility is to do as much as we can to overcome that.”

The union drive that has swept Starbucks this year was sparked by workers’ “anger,” the company’s recent anti-union CEO says.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Howard Schultz said of the company’s unionizing baristas, “They’re angry at the world. They’re angry at their situation, which I understand.”

Starbucks workers at more than 200 locations have unionized in just under a year, calling for better pay, benefits, and working conditions. The first company-owned US store voted for a union in December.

As for the company’s response to workers’ unionizing efforts, Schultz, who has been CEO on and off since 1986 and is now interim CEO, said, “Our responsibility is to do as much as we can to overcome that, but there are limitations, unfortunately.”

Laxman Narasimhan became Starbucks’ incoming CEO on October 1. The company said he will work with Schultz before assuming the CEO role and joining the board on April 1.

Schultz has been vocal about his opposition to unionizing efforts at Starbucks. In June, he told the New York Times that Starbucks needed to “customize new benefits” and “demonstrate to our people they can trust us.” When asked if he could see himself “embracing the union” as part of that effort, Schultz said no.

Starbucks has been accused of numerous union busting tactics. This summer, federal labor officials in Buffalo, New York, home of the first unionized Starbucks, filed a complaint accusing the company of unfair labor practices.  It said Starbucks had closed pro-union stores, used surveillance and intimidation tactics, and fired workers for union organizing.

A company spokesperson responded at the time, “We believe these claims are false and will be prepared to defend our case.”

On Friday, a National Labor Relations Board judge ruled that Starbucks had illegally fired a Michigan worker for engaging in union activism. Also this week, senators Edward J. Markey, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Richard Blumenthal sent Schultz a letter seeking “more information about Starbucks’ anti-union activity.”



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