The coffee chain has again been accused of maltreatment by union workers of Workers United, which claims Starbucks has barred them from participating in its barista contest as retaliation
Starbucks singled out union baristas this week as the company announced those involved would be excluded from participating in its North America Barista Championship – which included a international grand prize.
The winner of the contest will receive an expense paid trip to Starbucks’ coffee farm located in Costa Rica. Dillion Dix, a 25-year-old Starbucks employee in Virginia, was reportedly excited about displaying his barista skills in the contest, denounced the move as “really petty” after discovering he wasn’t allowed to participate.
“It’s quite shocking and hard to comprehend the reasoning behind it, other than purely in a union-busting sense,” the union barista said. Dillion said the rule was likely an attack on him and other unionised workers over their efforts in organizing about 400 of the company’s 9,000 corporate-owned U.S stores since 2021.
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Starbucks publicly accepted the new union’s, Workers United, terms and vowed to honor them. However, the company has appeared to perform a 180 as the group has filed 47 new charges over alleged laborer maltreatment. Additionally, one worker who’s related to the current barista champion reportedly filed a charge as well.
Internal documents show that Starbucks believes the contest is a workplace benefit that must be fought for if workers unionise. That excuse has been used by the company to exclude certain employees before. It’s “black apron” program, which trains baristas to become “coffee masters,” was recently blocked for union baristas.
A company spokesperson asserted the contest includes a paid vacation for participants which they said bars union workers from indulging unless a compromise is determined.
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“We are working to further our mission, promises and values while investing in the partner experience around the world,” the spokesperson said. “We will continue to listen to the evolving needs of all partners and will continue working to better support them in their jobs, on their teams and in their lives.”
Workers United says its done bargaining with the company and benefits such as the barista contest should automatically be extended to them, saying Starbucks is breaking the law with their decision. In September, a National Labor Relations Board judge, which generally mediates private-sector labor disputes, ruled in Workers United’s favor. The court determined the coffee giant was intentionally discriminating against union workers by withholding pay raises and benefits.
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The group also asserted Starbucks offered them meager raises compared to non-union workers, withheld additional benefits offered to other employees, like rapid vacation accrual and scheduling improvements, and terminating five union proponents since early December.
The latter reportedly occurred the same day Starbucks told Workers United that it wished to form a more productive relationship. Union leader Lydia Fernandez, 25, who was recently fired from a store in Philadelphia, said she thinks Starbucks executives never really changed their minds on the union; they were just acting.
“I see very much the same behavior,” she said.