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Starbucks offers new perks for non-union cafes

The new benefits begin Sept. 19, Seattle-based Starbucks said in a statement Monday.David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Starbucks is introducing benefits related to financial savings and student-loan debt for its US baristas, but only in non-union stores.

The company says it isn’t allowed to give these new perks to staff at the roughly 300 stores where there’s been union activity.

The new benefits begin Sept. 19, Seattle-based Starbucks said in a statement Monday. The savings program lets staff contribute a part of their after-tax pay to a personal savings account, with the company contributing $25 and $50 credits at milestones up to $250 per person. Starbucks workers will also have access to a new student-loan benefit with coaching on debt about repayment options and refinancing.


Starbucks, which has more than 9,000 US locations that are company owned, legally can’t unilaterally give these benefits to stores that have union activity, according to spokesperson Reggie Borges. Instead, the new benefits can be discussed in collective bargaining, he said.

However, Workers United, the group attempting to organize Starbucks cafes, has argued that the union waived its right to negotiate over extending benefits being provided to other stores, so there’s no legal obstacle to doing so. In August, National Labor Relations Board prosecutors issued a complaint alleging Starbucks violated labor law by withholding new benefits from unionized stores.

“Starbucks is blatantly disregarding the law to continue their scorched-earth union-busting campaign,” Workers United said in a statement. “Starbucks is not only damaging their brand and their business, but irrevocably damaging their credibility as a company.”

Starbucks first announced broader benefits improvements for its baristas on May 3 — saying they would include opportunities to increase sick-time accrual, a new financial-stability program, and tools to help those with student loans. The latter two items are what the company addressed in the Monday announcement.

Starbucks shares were up 0.43 percent Monday. The stock was down 24 percent this year through Sept. 9, compared with the 15 percent decline of the S&P 500 Index.