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Starbucks Investors Demand The Company Stop Union-Busting As Stock Plummets

A prominent investment firm Trillium is calling on Starbucks to halt its anti-union rampage.

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Video edited by Ian McKenna

Starbucks stock has plummeted 31% since the company started its aggressive anti-union campaign. Major Starbucks investors, led by Trillium Asset Management, say Howard Schultz has betrayed Starbucks’ “worker-friendly” image. They’re demanding an end to the union busting. We spoke to Jonas Kron, the chief advocacy officer at Trillium Asset Management. Below is a full transcript of the video.

[Narrator]: In less than a year, Starbucks’ anti-union campaign has taken the company from this:

[Jim Cramer on CNBC]: The stock’s a buy. It’s a buy. Yes, it is.

[Narrator]: To this:

[CNBC anchor]: We’ve got a venti-sized buzzkill for you.

[CNBC anchor]: Starbucks stock down about 25% since the first union vote took place.

[CNBC anchor]: I think there are a couple of quarters of pain ahead.

[CNBC anchor]: Starbucks down 23% in just three months as coffee prices surge and their labor woes increase.

[Jim Cramer on CNBC]: Now that Starbucks has kind of lost its way.

[Narrator]: And that’s a big problem for people like this.

Jonas Kron: My name is Jonas Kron and I’m Chief Advocacy Officer at Trillium Asset Management. We’re a $5 billion asset management firm in its 40th year and we are clearly interested in the financial success of Starbucks as our clients and funds hold about $53 million worth of shares.

So in the last 10 months, Trillium has been actively pressing Starbucks to respect worker rights to organize.

[Starbucks workers at protest]: Venti, grande, mocha, double, union busters you’ve got trouble!

[CBS 4 Denver Reporter]: But they say the company is not making it easy on them. 

[Starbucks worker at protest]: We’ve had a lot of intimidation and a lot of efforts to stop us, but we’re here. 

[Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz]: Companies throughout the country are being assaulted in many ways, by the threat of unionization. 

Jonas Kron: From a bottom line point of view, we are very concerned about Starbucks’ behavior over the last few months in response to worker organizing efforts. Conduct that the National Labor Relations Board has concluded violates national labor laws. We are particularly concerned about Starbucks management’s behavior at a time that the public support for the right to organize is at record-high levels.

[Narrator]: As of June 2nd, there are 177 unfair labor practice cases open against Starbucks. 

[Jonas Kron]: Starbucks’ financial success depends in part on the strength of its reputation and it should not put that reputation in jeopardy with behavior that the NLRB regards as union busting. Customers can easily go elsewhere, as the competition is virtually everywhere.

[Deiter Waizenegger on CNBC]: Customers have a choice and this is gonna be the one, so I think the company should work very hard to keep its reputation as a people-positive company, and that should include really being a good partner to its partners.

Jonas Kron: We believe a neutral approach to unions would not only be completely consistent with its financial success and its reputation as a socially responsible company; but actually strengthen the company on a number of levels, social and financial. 

[Narrator]: Shares in Starbucks have dropped 34% since January 2022. 

Jonas Kron: Around the world, freedom of association is recognized as a human right. Workers have the right to organize and collectively bargain under the OECD guidelines, UN Guiding Principles, and the ILO Conventions.

Happily, Starbucks refers to and affirms their commitments to the norms; but it must live up to those commitments, to put meaning behind those words, to genuinely respect workers’ rights. These human rights are critically important to investors like Trillium. 

Hearing from the workers who are putting their livelihoods on the line has shown us that they care about the kind of company Starbucks is and can be, and at a time when Starbucks needs to retain skilled and enthusiastic employees, it is a perfect time for them to pivot away from its unfortunate history of opposing unions and to show the social leadership it has been known for decades. 

It is a real opportunity for Starbucks to authentically stand up for its mission to “inspire and nurture the human spirit.” It is an opportunity to prosper that is good for the company, the employees that make it all happen every day, shareholders, and for the society it is a part of. 

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