Labor unions end proxy fight at Starbucks after bargaining progress


Steph Kronos, a pro-Union activist, tries to talk to Starbucks customers as she joins Starbucks workers, former employees, and supporters in holding signs in support of a strike, outside of a Starbucks store in Arlington, Virginia, on November 16, 2023.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

A group of labor unions is ending its proxy fight at Starbucks, a person familiar with the matter told CNBC, after the two sides agreed last week to work toward a “foundational framework” on collective bargaining.

The labor group, the Strategic Organizing Center, argued that Starbucks had responded to a yearslong union push with a “flawed” strategy that diminished shareholder returns and presented reputational risk. The SOC said in its proxy filings that the company’s response to widespread unionization efforts had cost the company nearly $250 million.

It had put forth three nominees to Starbucks’ board of directors, which the SOC is now withdrawing, according to the person familiar.

The cessation comes after two influential proxy advisors, Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis, both recommended that shareholders vote for management board nominees.

The fight would have been unusual given the small size of the SOC’s economic interest and the composition of the group. It was the first time that a labor union — typically opposed to activist campaigns — had drawn on the activist toolkit.

The SOC hired well-respected communications, legal and proxy advisors who have worked on behalf of major activists and hedge funds. Together, they built a thesis that drew a line from slipshod bargaining tactics to weakened shareholder returns.

Reuters first reported that the SOC was ending its proxy fight.

Starbucks’ annual shareholder meeting is scheduled for March 13. The coffee chain didn’t immediately return request for comment.

Labor coalition accuses Starbucks of ‘flawed’ union strategy



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