The Union Busters on Starbucks Board of Directors

Starbucks, the mega-chain of retail coffee shops, operates almost 9,000 company-owned stores in the United States, and none of them are currently unionized. But that could all change in a matter of weeks.

Starbucks employees at three stores in the Buffalo, New York area are currently voting on whether to unionize, with the NLRB due to count the ballots in December 9, and three other stores stood for election. It might not end there – an organizing campaign is also now In progress at Starbucks stores in Mesa, Arizona.

The company, meanwhile, is doing everything possible to crush the countryside. He tried to delay the union vote, and is while carrying meetings with a captive audience where management forces employees to listen to anti-union propaganda. Starbucks also sends workers – reputable the partners”-letters ask them to vote no ”on the union.

Some of the company’s most awkward union avoidance tactics have gone viral. The bizarre spectacle of senior executives descending into Buffalo-area stores for sweep the floors has been widely shared on Twitter. And a failed presentation in the city by billionaire and former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who analogized the situation of workers in a Nazi concentration camp was doing the company a disservice.

But to truly understand the ferocity of Starbucks’ anti-union push, it’s important to look beyond management and examine the company’s governing body: its board of directors. Boards of directors hire and fire the executives who run the business. They set executive compensation and incentives while overseeing company policies and representing shareholders. And Starbucks’ board of directors is full of anti-union leaders who represent companies and industry groups that have spent millions of dollars lobbying to roll back labor rights. Some oversee business operations linked to alleged violations of workers’ rights.

Kate bronfenbrenner, a labor expert at Cornell University, said In these times that boards of directors set the tone for a company’s response to an organizing campaign.

The overwhelming majority of companies not only fight union campaigns, but engage in aggressive and intensive illegal activities during unionization, ”she said. And the board is not only well aware of it, but tolerates it. It is therefore important to understand who these people are who tolerate this activity. She added that the boards measuring a company’s success by its ability to remain union-free.

An anti-union council

For starters, take Mary Dillon, a board member who runs the Starbucks committee which is responsible for setting the remuneration of company executives. Dillon is a hardened veteran of the top corporate America. She is the former CEO and current executive chairman of Ulta Beauty, the largest beauty retailer in the United States. She previously held executive or board positions at Target, US Cellular, McDonald’s and PepsiCo.

Fortune class Dillon among the Most Influential Business Women ”in 2020. Her power base is Chicago, where she chairs
The Economic Club of Chicago, an elite business forum directed by
large corporations and law firms, and serves as director of the Executives’ Club of Chicago, a group of companies made up of CEOs and other senior executives from Chicagoland.

More important perhaps, Dillon chairs the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), virulent anti-union, which describes itself as the US trade association of major retailers. His list of members is a rogue gallery of the most anti-union retailers, including Walmart, Dollar General, Home Depot, Target and Starbucks.

RILA expense millions lobbying against trade union and workers rights and has a particular hatred for the protection of the right to organize (PRO) Act, currently being pushed by Progressive Democrats in Congress, which is said to be the most ambitious pro-union legislation in decades.

Along with its lobbying operations, RILA directly provides retailers with the resources they need to crack down on workers’ organization. For example, it emits a Annual Report with IRI Consultants, a leader anti-union enterprise, this contains the latest data on union organizing and membership across the country ”, updates on labor law and tips on how to resist unions.

RILA also funds front groups and anti-union consultants. It’s the biggest donor to the Job Creators Network (JCN), an anti-union organization co-founded
by Bernie Marcus, the billionaire ex-boss of Home Depot and big Asset funder. JCN funds the Center for Union Facts, run by renowned anti-union consultant Rick Berman. RILA is also a major donor to the anti-union
National Retail Federation.

As President of RILA and a member of the Starbucks Board of Directors, Mary Dillon is arguably one of the most prolific anti-union organizations in the country. In addition, Dillon is also a director of KKR, one of the largest and most ruthless private equity firms in the world, known for its leveraged buyouts that destroy thousands of jobs.

See the map on LittleSis .org

Other companies whose officers and directors serve on the Starbucks board of directors include Microsoft, Apple, FedEx, Domino’s and Nike, all of which have come under scrutiny for resistance to unions or violation of workers’ rights.

Apple, for example, is the most valuable company in the world. Isabel Ge Mahe, Starbucks Board Member runs Apple’s operations in China, where the company has face numerous allegations of worker abuse throughout its supply chain, such as to count on the forced labor of Uyghur workers in the Chinese province of Xinjiang and labor violations to his Foxconn supplier.

Microsoft president and CEO Satya Nadella and FedEx chief executive Joshua Cooper Ramo are also members of the Starbucks board. Microsoft and FedEx both have director seats with the United States Chamber of Commerce, one of the fiercest and well funded groups in the war of American companies against workers.

The Chamber of Commerce plays a really central role in coordinating the business community’s opposition to pro-labor legislation, said John Logan, an anti-union industry expert at San Francisco State University. . Nothing is more important [to the Chamber] than to defeat any law that would strengthen collective labor rights.

In total, at least eight of the 11 Starbucks’ members Board of directors, including CEO Kevin Johnson, have represented companies with a history of resistance to unions or worked with groups and companies that have faced serious allegations of workers’ rights violations.

Progressive image vs anti-union reality

The role of a board of directors during a recruitment campaign is not limited to defining the terms of the company’s anti-union offensive. Boards of directors also perform public relations functions that help shape a company’s brand. This is especially critical for a business like Starbucks, which is constantly trying to market itself as the American business. progressive face, even in the face of accusations of mistreatment of workers.

One of the key players in the company’s recent public relations blitz is Mellody Hobson, the chair of the Starbucks Board of Directors. Hobson is a famous business leader that media such as Vanity Fair and Variety have portrayed as a pioneer. Hobson is currently the only Black woman board chairman of a fortune 500 business. She counts everyone from Oprah to the Obama To Warren Buffett as friends and is married to billionaire Star Wars creator George Lucas.

Hobson has long promoted the need for greater diversity within the board of directors and regularly invokes the language of justice and equality in his numerous public lectures. Progressive icon Bill Moyers officiated her marriage to Lucas and Hobson herself donates to many liberal causes. She is also a curator major cultural institutions such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

But Hobson has another side. She is a director of the board of directors at JPMorgan Chase, the largest American bank that has become synonymous with Wall Street greed and financing climate destruction. She has held leadership positions in groups that represent the financial sector and that of Chicago richest inhabitants. And, as chairman of the Starbucks board of directors, she’s also the most powerful director of a company that currently runs one of the country’s foremost anti-union efforts.

Usually, if the company is deeply hostile to unions, that ideology – that stance when it comes to resisting unions and maintaining unilateral control of the workplace – comes from the top of the company, ”Logan said. .

Hobson has a long history with Starbucks. She has been a member of the board of directors since 2005. She can often be spotted with a Starbucks mug during her video interviews and considers herself a super user“client. She is also very close with Howard Schultz.

For decades, Starbucks’ top brass – including management and the board – have had it both ways, projecting a worker-friendly environment while resisting calls for worker empowerment. They want customers to associate warm and progressive feelings with the business Mark, and be a leading example of corporate responsibility. On the other hand, Starbucks has long-term war against any attempt to unionize its partners ”who seek more democracy, voices and protections at work.

Logan says Starbucks workers trying to organize in Buffalo and elsewhere have a tough road ahead, but if they emerge victorious, the example of their victory in organizing for other workers would be significant.

If you see them winning – and especially if you see them negotiating a much better deal – it makes people think: Whoa, there’s reason to believe it’s worth taking that risk too, because these people did, and they won.

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