IUF affiliate Workers United/SEIU has filed a complaint to the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Committee on Freedom of Association concerning violations of the principles of freedom of association and the right to collectively bargain by the Government of the United States. The complaint argues that Starbucks is exploiting weaknesses in US labour law to squash workers’ organizing efforts and deny them a seat at the bargaining table. The coffee giant has repeatedly tried to deflect criticism of its anti-union campaign by claiming it adheres to the ILO’s Core Labour Standards including freedom of association.
The complaint calls on the ILO to convene an on-the-spot “mission,” which entails meeting with Starbucks workers and their union, Starbucks management, U.S. government officials, and other relevant actors to investigate Starbucks’ conduct. Were the US government to eventually accept such a mission, it would be the first time the UN agency conducts a mission in the US, a clear indication that Starbucks’ anti-union conduct falls outside accepted international norms.
- Since January 2021, workers in more than 280 Starbucks stores have voted in favour of union representation; due to Starbucks’ refusal of good faith bargaining, not a single collective agreement has been bargained
- Starbucks has fired nearly 200 union activists and made multiple threats of reprisal against workers if they vote in favour of union representation
- In November 2022 and April 2023, workers and unions from Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Finland, Germany, Italy, Serbia, Spain and the United Kingdom joined together to send messages of solidarity to Starbucks union leaders in the US facing retaliation for union activity and to call for an end to the Starbucks’ aggressive unionbusting tactics
Lydia Fernandez, a Starbucks Workers United member from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, stated, “We at Starbucks Workers United have been fighting tooth and nail against a massive, global corporation with all the money and resources to skirt any laws they’d like. Our ILO complaint is incredibly important to not only hold Starbucks accountable in the US but to hold global corporations accountable everywhere.”