Starbucks Will Raise Wages Again, but not for Unionized Workers

    Photo: Gabby Jones [via The Wall Street Journal]

    The Facts

    • On Tues., Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said he will offer new benefits to the company's staff, including higher wages, expanded training, improved sick leave, and credit card tipping. The benefits only apply to non-unionized stores as Starbucks is not permitted to offer new benefits to a unionized or unionizing store, where changes must be agreed through the collective bargaining process.

    • The announcement follows a commitment to increase the minimum wage of employees to $15 this year, and to raise the pay of employees with 2-5 yrs experience by at least 5%. Workers with 5+ yrs experience will recieve a raise of at least 7%.

    The Spin

    Establishment-critical narrative

    Schultz is purposely misinterpreting the law. By withholding benefits from unionized stores, Starbucks is violating federal labor laws and, with the help of Workers United, Schultz will be held responsible for his threatening and illegal behaviour. Starbucks workers need to unionize to protect their employment rights.

    Pro-establishment narrative

    The announcement makes it clear that unions cannot even come close to the perks Starbucks can offer. Schultz's return as CEO has seen a rise in quarterly sales and profits that can now be used to invest in workers and operations. Rather than obstructing progress for workers in the company with complicated systems of representation, employees would be better off not-unionizing and benefiting from the changes Starbucks can make unilaterally.

    Progressive narrative

    Although the wave of unionization sweeping companies like Amazon and Starbucks should be celebrated, the current scale of worker organization stops short of posing a real challenge to corporate America. If union leaders are sincere in their wish to reverse the decline of the labor movement, they must push the spread of organization to further companies and collectivize power in whole sectors to consolidate workers' influence.

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