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Independent Starbucks Report Calls For Better Training On Union Organizing

In March 2023, Starbucks shareholders approved an independent audit of Starbucks' compliance with its Global Human Rights Statement's freedom of association and collective bargaining commitments. The board voted for the report over Starbucks's objections. Starbucks has been the subject of many headlines because of its response to organizing at its stores, and the National Labor Relations Board has 698 open or settled unfair labor practice charges against the company.

Thomas Mackall, a former labor relations executive, audited public and nonpublic documents and interviewed employees. He concluded Starbucks was unprepared for the union wave drive and should have created robust processes for managers to respond appropriately. Mackall pointed to a lack of basic fundamentals, including "consistent on-the-ground presence and support, properly bespoke training, effective coordination of activities, and development throughout the ranks of full appreciation of guardrails and rules of engagement." He did not find any evidence Starbucks trained its managers to violate labor laws, and he noted the company told employees that it respected their right to organize. In addition, Mackall found employee discipline and discharge rates were similar at union and non-union stores. Union leaders had claimed Starbucks retaliated against unionized workers.

Starbucks's Global Human Rights Statement does not "provide meaningful behavioral guidance or a clear basis for compliance" for the company's stated recognition of workers' collective bargaining rights. Mackall encouraged the company to rewrite its statement to make this plainer. He recommended Starbucks restart labor discussions with Workers United, which have been dormant since May. In response to this recommendation, Starbucks did issue an open letter to the union to begin discussions. The Starbucks board of directors indicated it will take "meaningful action" based on the report.