Starbucks criticizes Biden’s visit with union leaders, calls for a meeting at the White House

US President Joe Biden gave remarks on economic growth, employment and deficit reduction in the Roosevelt Room on Wednesday, May 4, 2022.

Demetrius Freeman | The Washington Post | Getty Images

Starbucks asks the White House for a meeting after President Joe Biden meets with an organizer who is helping his coffee shops join the union.

On Thursday, the president met with 39 national union leaders, including Christian Smalls, head of the Amazon Labor Union and Laura Garza, union leader of Starbucks’ New York City Roastery. Biden has been a staunch supporter of unions, from the election campaign to his time in the Oval Office, at a time when high-profile union initiatives in companies such as Amazon, Apple and Conde Nast are making headlines.

AJ Jones, Starbucks’ head of global communications and public affairs, wrote in a letter Thursday that the decision not to invite any company representative was deeply concerned.

“We believe this lack of representation belies the reality that most of our partners oppose union membership and the unionization tactics employed by Workers United,” Jones wrote in the letter to. Steve Richetti, one of Biden’s closest advisors. “As you know, American workers have the absolute right to decide for themselves whether or not to unionize without undue influence.”

As of Wednesday, six Starbucks locations voted against unionization. But baristas at more than 50 Starbucks coffees in the United States have voted in favor of unionization under Workers United for the past six months. About 200 cafes are still waiting for their elections or the counting of the votes.

Jones requested a White House meeting for the opportunity to introduce Biden’s administration to workers who have different perspectives than the union. A White House representative did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.

Starbucks is campaigning to curb the spread of unionization in its coffee shops. Workers United filed more than 100 complaints of unfair employment practices against the company, for allegedly unlawful retaliation and harassment. The National Labor Relations Board has filed at least three lawsuits against Starbucks. The company denied those claims, but filed two of its own lawsuits against Workers United.

Tuesday, Starbucks said it would spend $ 1 billion in fiscal year 2022 on investments in its shops and workers. These investments include another salary increase for permanent employees, doubling of training for new workers, and plans to add tips for debit and credit card users.

“These benefits, including those we have demanded since the beginning of our campaign, are a response to our organizational efforts and we should celebrate the hard work that the partners who have endured [CEO] Howard Schultz’s bullying was put in place to make this happen, “the Starbucks Workers United Organizing Committee said in a statement to CNBC on Tuesday.” Many of the proposed benefits have been proposed at the negotiating table in Buffalo.

Schultz himself has publicly flirted with running for president as an independent during the run up to the 2020 election.