Washington State Based Starbucks and Union at ‘War’ Over Tweet
Seattle based Starbucks is back in the news and it has nothing to do with their coffee. The company and an entity known as the Starbucks Workers United have been at odds for the last couple of years over unionization at Starbucks owned stores around the U.S.
Starbucks Workers United achieved their first successful organizational vote in 2021 in Buffalo, New York (earlier this year one of those same stored filed to decertify the union). Since then, over 360 Starbucks stores have voted to unionize in 40 States. There is a catch... ownership has not negotiated a single contract, or a tentative agreement, with any of the Unions.
A Little Bit More History
Starbucks Workers United (SBWU) is a branch of Workers United, which in itself is a branch of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Starbucks has been vocal in its opposition to stores unionizing. Former CEO Howard Schultz testified earlier this year before the U.S. Senate regarding allegations that Starbucks was engaging in union busting tactics.
To say the relationship is contentious would be an understatement. More fuel has been added to the fire, unrelated to union organizing or busting, that has both sides filing litigation against the other within hours.
So What Happened?
It began with what most of us still call a 'Tweet' but may not properly be referred to as a post on X. The Starbucks Workers United re-posted a message about he Israel/Hamas war. At the top of their re-posting the included the statement "Solidarity with Palestine"
Starbucks put out a statement blasting the post. It read:
“We unequivocally condemn these acts of terrorism, hate and violence, and disagree with the statements and views expressed by Workers United and its members. “Workers United’s words and actions belong to them, and them alone."
Not long after the largest coffee company on the globe filed a lawsuit in Iowa Federal Court accusing Starbucks Workers United of trademark infringement and demanded they stop using “the Starbucks name and other identifying symbols.”
They also contend the Union name misleads and confuses consumers over where the endorsement came from. Starbucks claimed they received over 1,000 complaints and the post is damaging their reputation and their business, including a Rhode Island store that was spray painted with the Star of David and a Swastika.
Workers United filed a countersuit in Pennsylvania Federal Court refuting the chain's claim that they have violated trademark laws and counter claiming defamation. The Union also claims other unions, such as the one representing Amazon workers, routinely take the company name in theirs. They also assert Starbucks defamed them through the companies public statement about the controversial post.