Starbucks was among the companies that updated its medical coverage after the Supreme Court recently overturned the Roe v. Wade decision.
Despite the encouraging update, the company’s statement did not confirm whether workers at unionized locations would be included, sparking outrage among employees.
Acting executive vice president of Starbucks’ Partner Resources Sara Kelly said that federal labor laws required collective bargaining to determine the unionized workers’ wages, benefits, and working conditions.
“This means Starbucks cannot make promises about any benefits for workers currently represented by unions,” she explained.
In Knoxville, Tennessee, unionized barista Maggie Carter told Bon Appétit that she is still uncertain about the availability of the update benefit.
Starbucks previously announced its plan to add the benefit in May, and Carter is still yet to get an answer from her manager despite asking about it that month.
Carter believes Starbucks’ ambiguity is an attempt to confuse and intimidate its unionized employees.
“This shows what Starbucks is willing to leverage in this fight,” said the barista. “It makes me feel disgusted that they’d dangle abortion over people’s heads as if it’s a cat toy when women are literally losing their rights to bodily autonomy. It just feels dystopian.”
However, a Starbucks spokesperson confirmed that the benefit would be available to all employees, including those in unionized stores.
“Because this is an expansion of existing benefits, if you are a Starbucks partner with Starbucks healthcare benefits, the travel expense cost for these kinds of medical procedures is covered, regardless of union status,” the spokesperson said.
Rebecca Givan, Ph.D., an associate professor of labor studies and employment relations at Rutgers University in New Jersey, urged Starbucks to clarify their statement to unionized employees.
“I think they’re trying to burnish their progressive reputation while scaring their employees away from unionizing by suggesting that none of their benefits are secure,” said Givan, who is not associated with the company’s unionization process.
The United States has seen more unionization efforts since late last year, with companies like Starbucks, Amazon, and Apple witnessing more of their employees organizing.
Since the unionization began, Starbucks has been particularly vocal against these efforts, suggesting the employees should speak directly with them instead of forming organizations.