President Joe Biden invited union activists to the White House on Thursday for a symbolically significant meeting that reinforced the president’s bona fides as a union man. The photo-op excited progressives who want the administration to do all the things it might probably to support union organizing and rejuvenate the labor movement.
Starbucks was less thrilled about it.
The group of worker-activists within the Oval Office included Laura Garza, an worker from Starbucks’ Latest York roastery who is a component of the chain’s growing union campaign.
Starbucks executive AJ Jones II penned a letter Thursday to Steve Ricchetti, the president’s counselor, asking that the White House hold a separate meet-and-greet for other representatives from Starbucks.
Within the span of just a couple of months, greater than 50 stores have voted to affix the union Staff United, making it probably the most closely watched organizing efforts in many years. Starbucks has to this point didn’t stop the wave of organizing in its corporate-owned stores, despite waging an aggressive countercampaign.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris meet with Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and labor activists on Thursday within the Oval Office.
Jones said in his letter it wasn’t fair that only a union employee was there to share views on the corporate. (The complete letter might be read here.)
“We consider this lack of representation discounts the fact that the vast majority of our partners oppose being members of a union and the unionization tactics being deployed by Staff United,” Jones wrote.
He ran through a litany of the corporate’s worker advantages and claimed that Starbucks has a “drastically more positive vision for our partners and our company than Staff United.” He requested that a “diverse, representative group” of Starbucks employees be invited to the White House for a separate gathering.
Starbucks already seems to have good access in Washington, having spent $480,000 on lobbying to this point this 12 months, in response to Open Secrets.
The union campaign, generally known as Starbucks Staff United, told HuffPost in a press release that “equal time” was certainly one of the “core principles” it has asked the corporate to stick to in the course of the organizing effort: “If Starbucks now believes on this principle, and grants us equal company time to refer to partners for each anti-union meeting they hold, we’d be comfortable to have them tag along next time we get invited to the White House.”
“Biden’s photo-op with activists fired up progressives who want the administration to do all the things it might probably to support union organizing.”
The group said Garza, who has been with the corporate for 22 years, shared her story with White House officials about “what it’s prefer to be intimidated and harassed by an organization she has devoted her working life to.”
A White House spokesperson didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.
The Starbucks letter shows how employees like Garza have compelled Biden and other Democrats to point out their support for unionizing employees regardless that it could rankle powerful corporations, including those close with the Democratic Party.
The meeting Thursday featured Christian Smalls, president of the Amazon Labor Union, which recently made history by forming the tech giant’s first U.S. union, at a warehouse in Staten Island, Latest York. In a tweet after the White House meeting, Smalls said Biden told him he had gotten the president “in trouble” along with his successful organizing, underscoring the political dynamic at play.
Just met the President lol he said I got him in trouble 😈 gooooooooooood @amazonlabor ✊🏽
— Christian Smalls (@Shut_downAmazon) May 5, 2022
The White House labor get-together also included employees from the gaming company Paizo, the animation studio Titmouse, the Baltimore Public Library and outdoor retailer REI, all workplaces where unions have been organizing. Biden was joined by Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh.
The campaigns at Starbucks and Amazon have was political stories, as employees and their allies call on lawmakers for public support. The identical day employees met with Biden and other White House officials, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) held a Senate Budget Committee hearing through which Smalls pilloried Amazon for its anti-union tactics and sparred with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) over corporate America’s treatment of employees.
The organizing campaign at Starbucks has led to a raft of unfair labor practice charges against the corporate, with Staff United having accused management of retaliating against union activists and threatening to withhold pay raises and advantages from employees who organize.
Officials on the National Labor Relations Board have found merit in a number of the union’s allegations, filing a criticism against Starbucks on the labor board and in search of an injunction in federal court to have fired activists reinstated. Starbucks maintains that it fired the employees because that they had violated company policies.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated Garza’s age as 22. That number refers to what number of years she’s been with the corporate.