Barista union to ask Starbucks shareholders to back labor review

Starbucks U.S. workers at 100 stores hold one-day walkout
Starbucks workers attend a rally as they go on a one-day strike outside a store in Buffalo, New York, U.S., November 17, 2022. REUTERS/Lindsay DeDario/File Photo

NEW YORK, March 10 (Reuters) - Starbucks Workers United, which represents thousands of U.S. baristas, plans to urge the company's investors to support a shareholder proposal for an independent review of the coffee chain's labor practices, according to a letter seen exclusively by Reuters.

The letter comes after two top proxy advisory firms, Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis, also recommended shareholders vote in favor of the assessment at Starbucks' annual shareholder meeting on March 23.

"We believe Starbucks' anti-union campaign against us violates the company's own commitment to respect its employees' rights," Workers United said in the letter, which it will send to investors on Friday.

The fight between labor and Starbucks has become increasingly frothy, with both sides alleging that the other is not bargaining in good faith.

Starbucks workers have filed more than 500 charges against the company with the National Labor Relations Board, which has ordered the company to reinstate 22 fired employees including some union supporters.

"We respect our partner' rights to organize and engage in lawful union activities and we have fully honored the process laid out by the NLRB to ensure that partners can trust the process is fair and their voice is heard," Starbucks said in a statement to Reuters.

"We are actively engaging with shareholders on a variety of matters" related to the meeting, it said, adding that its direct relationship with employees, which it calls partners, is "core to the culture and experiences we create in our stores."

Starbucks has also filed more than 100 charges against the union.

In its original proxy materials in response to the shareholder proposal from Trillium Asset Management, the New York City Pension Funds and other investors, Starbucks said it would conduct a human rights impact assessment, including certain international labor rights principles.

On March 3, Starbucks clarified that the assessment would be conducted by independent third parties and made available by the end of its fiscal 2023, in October.

Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Sonali Paul

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