Starbucks Shareholders Seeking Proxy Battle Respond to Company’s ‘Human Capital Mismanagement’
One week after the release of the third-party assessment of Starbucks’ collective bargaining commitments, the Strategic Organizing Center — a coalition of labor unions provoking a proxy battle with the Starbucks executive board — has responded. According to the SOC, the results of the independent audit very clearly show a “track record of human capital mismanagement” and that leadership change is needed to facilitate more constructive outcomes for labor-related discussions and agreements.
“Since the SOC made clear its intention to nominate directors for election to Starbucks’ Board at the upcoming annual meeting, the company has issued numerous announcements related to its purported commitment to improving relations with its employees,” the SOC collectively said in a statement. “These have included the formation of a new board committee, a public letter to Workers United seeking to reengage negotiations and a letter to shareholders regarding the proposal that received majority support at the 2023 annual meeting of shareholders asking for a report on Starbucks’ labor practices.”
These actions, which were taken or initiated around the same time that the independent assessment results were released, could be seen as a net positive, the SOC said, but the efficacy of the board should be based on its actions instead of statements.
With its nomination of three directors to the Starbucks executive board, the Strategic Organizing Center hopes to address the company’s treatment of its employees, including Starbucks’ clashes with its growing union, arguing that the company’s alleged union-busting tactics have led it legally vulnerable and have tarnished the goodwill of the Starbucks brand.
Although the results of the independent assessment released earlier this month were not worded quite as strongly, the audit stated that Starbucks responded to the sudden wave of unionization that began at the end of 2021 “without clear governance,” and that swiftly fixing these issues appeared to take precedence over “careful respect for rights and limitations.”
Starbucks has been clashing with the Workers United union since the first store voted to unionize in Dec. 2021. Since then, around 360 of the company’s 9,380 U.S. cafes have joined the union – an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union.