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The Wall Street Journal: Starbucks planning new employee benefits that might exclude unionized workers

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Starbucks Corp. Chief Executive Howard Schultz is ramping up the company’s campaign against a unionization push in its U.S. stores, saying new benefits being developed for chain employees legally can’t be extended to unionized locations.

In an online forum with U.S. store leaders this week, Schultz said he is reviewing the company’s benefits to develop an expanded employee-benefit package in an effort to better recruit and retain baristas. Schultz suspended billions of dollars in share buybacks on his first day returning as Starbucks’s
SBUX,
+1.60%

interim CEO last week, a move he said would help the company invest more money into workers and stores.

Schultz told store leaders that expanded benefits will help reduce attrition among Starbucks workers, but that those new benefits legally can’t go to the growing number of stores that have voted to unionize. Federal law requires separately negotiated contracts for union-represented workers’ pay and benefits, and the company can’t change their compensation unilaterally, Schultz said, citing Starbucks’s legal counsel.

Nearly 200 of Starbucks’s 9,000 U.S. corporate stores have petitioned for union elections since last year. The National Labor Relations Board said it has certified unions at eight Starbucks locations.

Pro-union workers are advocating for better pay and benefits, along with more influence over company policy and a direct line to company leaders. Starbucks has said a union would create a barrier between workers and the company, and Starbucks itself can best respond to employees’ needs.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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