Starbucks increases pay, benefits at retail stores as union cries foul

Coffee giant Starbucks is giving hourly pay raises to non-union employees, a move the ever-growing Starbucks labor union says is illegal.

On Monday, Starbucks announced that it would be raising its standard hourly wage by 3%-5%, based on how many years an employee has been at the company. On average, Starbucks workers make around $17.50 hourly.

Both union and non-union workers who have been at the company for four years or less will receive 3% or 4% raises, based on years of service. Workers with more than five years of service will be eligible for a 5% raise.

However, according to the company, the 5% raise is a new benefit and must be negotiated with Starbucks Workers United and is therefore not available at unionized locations.

Non-union Starbucks workers will also see improvements in vacation days. According to the announcement, the company is shortening the amount of time it takes to accrue vacation days from one full year to 90 days.

Starbucks Workers United, the union that represents over 300 Starbucks locations in the U.S., said the decision to withhold pay increases and benefits from unionized stores is illegal and that they plan to file an unfair labor practice claim with the National Labor Relations Board.

In a statement to ABC News, Starbucks refuted the union’s assertion that the raises would be given only to workers at non-union stores.

“All union-represented stores will receive annual wage increases consistent with our practice of providing yearly wage increases,” the company said. “Wherever we can quickly and broadly improve partner benefits and perks we have and always will.”

However, Starbucks said its legal obligations make it impossible for the company to give union workers new benefits.

“Starbucks has adhered to long-standing legal obligations, which requires the company to differentiate between unionized or organizing partners and partners in all other stores,” the company said.

Last year, the NLRB ruled that Starbucks had violated federal labor regulations when it increased wages only for non-union members. The company also got in hot water more recently after a judge ruled that Starbucks managers violated the law by threatening to withhold benefits from employees if they decided to recognize a union.

Withholding the pay increases from workers would likely only increase tensions between the coffeemaker and its union. Despite unionizing hundreds of Starbucks stores around the country, Starbucks Workers United has been unable to secure a contract with the company.

Both sides have accused the other of bad-faith negotiating, and a decertification movement has popped up in the meantime, further threatening the future of unionization at Starbucks.

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