Over 40 Starbucks corporate employees have signed a petition calling for the company to reverse its return-to-office hybrid work policy and to allow stores to unionise across the country. The letter was shared on Twitter by Starbucks Workers United, a union that has organised hundreds of Starbucks stores, and was also reported by Bloomberg. The employees who signed the letter are frustrated with the “unforeseen and poorly planned ‘return to office’ mandate” which they claim is “prioritising corporate control over productivity, diversity, and inclusion”. They argue that this policy reduces their “ability to positively impact the store partner experience” and negatively affects their job satisfaction.
In January, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced a policy requiring employees “within commuting distance” to return to the office at least three days per week, despite previously pleading with employees to return to the office. However, the Wednesday petition calls for the company to reverse this policy and “commit to a policy of neutrality and respect federal labour laws” to address alleged union-busting.
Sen. Bernie Sanders announced on the same day as the petition that he intends to hold a vote on whether to summon Schultz to testify before Congress regarding allegations that Starbucks has been intimidating and terminating pro-union employees as the unionization movement gains momentum nationwide. The letter claims that the return-to-office policy and the alleged union-busting are eroding trust in Starbucks’ leadership.
When asked about the petition, a spokesperson for Starbucks declined to comment on its contents, but acknowledged that members of the company’s leadership had received it. While Starbucks has denied any anti-union activity and stated that it has not violated any labour laws, a recent ruling from the National Labor Relations Board found the company guilty of multiple violations, including one case at a Philadelphia store location. These findings suggest that the concerns raised by the employees in the petition may have some validity.
Starbucks is not the only major US company facing issues over its return-to-office policy. Other corporations like Amazon and Disney have also faced employee concerns and debates about the merits of such mandates in recent weeks. However, the petition from Starbucks employees highlights the need for corporations to prioritise their employees’ concerns and satisfaction in the midst of the ongoing debate over the future of work.
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