Starbucks hires a strategy chief as more baristas ramp up unionization efforts across the US

Starbucks hires a strategy chief as more baristas ramp up unionization efforts across the US
The strategy chief hire aims to increase dialogue with Starbucks baristas amid union drives.AP
  • Starbucks will hire a strategy chief amid more bids for unionization by baristas, per The WSJ.
  • Starbucks' CEO previously said that the chain was "being assaulted by the threat of unionization."

Starbucks is adding a strategy chief as the group grows increasingly anxious at the pace of its cafes' unionization efforts, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

The publication reported that the coffee chain would bring in Frank Britt as a new senior executive to specialize in worker relations. It comes as CEO Howard Schultz, who returned to Starbucks as CEO on Monday, continues to make his opposition to unionization known.

Six branches in New York State voted on Thursday and Friday to join the Starbucks Workers United union, with two stores in Rochester voting 10-3 and 13-11 and one in Buffalo 18-1 earlier this week. More votes are planned next week in Massachusetts, Virginia and Oregon branches.

In total, The WSJ reported that more than 180 of the chain's 9,000 corporate stores had petitioned for union votes.

Starbucks did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment made outside of normal working hours.


Unionization drives in the US are picking up momentum, with Amazon's workers in Staten Island, New York, last week becoming the first to unionize. The company is planning to appeal against the decision, however.

According to Starbucks Workers United, baristas are seeking improved pay, better treatment and working conditions, and a bigger say in the company's overall strategy.

Last summer, Starbucks announced it was raising wages for its employees to a minimum of $12 an hour to come into effect from last October. In its 2021 annual report, the company said the average hourly wage of its retail employees would be nearly $17 by summer this year.

Insider's Grace Dean reported in February that former and current workers said they were being mistreated by rude customers as pandemic restrictions lifted.

The hiring of a strategy chief is expected to increase dialogue between management, unions, and workers after recent hostilities, as the group sought to prevent union drives. In February, Insider reported that Starbucks had fired "several" employees seeking to unionize in Memphis, Tennessee, after they had let a TV crew into a branch.


In his first Town Hall meeting since being reinstated as Starbucks CEO, Schultz said Starbucks was "being assaulted by the threat of unionization." His comments were captured in a video posted to Twitter by US labor group More Perfect Union on Monday.

Schultz also said that Starbucks would never have been able to expand in the face of unions, and that the company's pro-worker stance meant it "does not need someone in between us and our people."

A spokesperson for Starbucks said: "With Howard's return as CEO, we are deeply engaged in work to reimagine the partner (employee) and customer experience. We are excited to welcome Frank who brings deep workforce development expertise to Starbucks as a part of the efforts underway."