New Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan addressed investors for the first time at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting on Thursday shortly after taking the helm at the Seattle-based coffee chain earlier than expected. The day before Narasimhan and other Starbucks executives addressed shareholders, and one week before Howard Schultz is scheduled to testify before the Senate, the Starbucks Union organized a strike of 115 stores around the country.
The frustrated Starbucks workers were striking in solidarity against the alleged union-busting tactics Starbucks has taken over the past 15 months when Starbucks stores began unionizing. These complaints of union busting — including reducing hours and firing employees that were part of the union movement, closing stores unexpectedly, and allegedly pressuring employees to vote ‘no’ on unionization — have translated to legal actions. The National Labor Relations Board currently has a few hundred legal complaints against the company, several of which have been decided in court already.
Although allegations of union busting were not directly addressed in Starbucks’ prepared remarks Thursday, the company did hint at some of its labor challenges in a highlights video played at the start of the meeting, which said that they “strive to be a different kind of company” and addressed what “limits” them right now in Starbucks’ goal to be “limitless” in its reach and potential. Starbucks said it plans to continue hiring more baristas, invest in partner wages and store operations, and “directly engage with retail partners” for guidance.
Hear more about the shareholders’ meeting from senior editor Joanna Fantozzi.