Washington, D.C. -- Today, U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) joined Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and a group of 14 Senators to urge Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to cease efforts to undermine unionization campaigns occurring at the company’s locations, and instead support employee-led union efforts nationwide. In a letter, the Senators detailed the company’s proposal to deny new, expanded benefits to unionized workers, and made clear interfering with workers’ right to organize is an illegal, unfair labor practice.


“We urge you to listen to the voices of your partners who are joining together to create a fairer and safer workplace for all Starbucks employees by voluntarily recognizing unionization efforts and actively pursuing a nationwide agreement to provide coverage for all Starbucks employees,” wrote the Senators. “Your employees have worked throughout the pandemic, keeping communities comforted and caffeinated while fueling strong company profits. Now we urge you to listen to your employees and hear their pleas to improve the company they are dedicated to serving.”


The Senators detailed Starbucks’ recent efforts to provide benefits toward only non-unionized employee while consciously excluding union employees and stated that increasing benefits “is doing what the union campaigns have said all along: Starbucks can and should provide better working conditions and benefits for its workers.” Noting that “suggesting publicly that benefits cannot be extended to workers in a union is a bad faith move to undermine contract negotiations with unionized locations,” the Senators called on Schultz to “truly work together with [his] employees by forming collective bargaining agreements…to set new standards in an industry that has become synonymous with driving a race to the bottom in our economy.”


In conclusion, the Senators highlighted that “a unionized workforce spurs economic growth, productivity, and reduces rates of turnover” and that “union households have twice the amount of net wealth as non-union households” -- a figure that is three and a half times more for Black families and five times more for Hispanic families.


The letter was co-signed by: Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).


Full text of the letter can be found here.


Throughout his career, Booker has worked to protect workers’ rights. He is a cosponsor of The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, comprehensive legislation that would strengthen labor laws and protect workers’ ability to bargain for higher wages, better benefits, and safer workplaces. Booker and Brown also introduced legislation in 2019 that would hold aircraft carriers accountable for repeated, willful, or serious labor infractions. In April of 2020, he and Brown pressed Amazon on the treatment and safety of the company’s front-line workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, after reports of unsafe working conditions at meat and poultry processing plants, Booker introduced legislation that would ensure worker safety and establish occupational safety and health standards.