Union claims Starbucks is threatening to stop gender-affirming benefits

Trans worker says company is ‘willing to take advantage’ of ‘vulnerable’ trans partners

Union claims Starbucks is threatening to stop gender-affirming benefits

Starbucks Corp. is facing a complaint which claims the company is threatening workers against unionizing, saying it could jeopardize gender-affirming health coverage for transgender employees.

Managers in several states have told baristas that its vaunted transgender-inclusive health care benefits could go away if they unionize, reported Bloomberg, citing a new complaint filed with the U.S. labor board and interviews with workers.

Read more: 8 trending employee benefits and perks in 2022

“I think the company realizes that we as trans partners feel particularly vulnerable at this time,” Neha Cremin, Oklahoma Starbucks employee, told Bloomberg. “I think that in some cases they are willing to take advantage of that.”

Cremin claimed that her manager told her, during a one-on-one meeting, that if Cremin decides to join a union, “when you are negotiating your benefits, you could gain, you could lose, or you could stay the same,” according to the report. The manager also alluded that Cremin previously used trans health-care benefits. This, Cremin claimed, seemed like a “veiled threat,” according to the report.

In a filing with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the union Workers United accused the coffee chain of “threatening employees with loss of benefits” including “loss of gender-affirming health care for transgender employees” at Cremin’s store, Bloomberg reported.

However, Starbucks spokesperson Reggie Borges told CNBC that the claim is false.

In May, Starbucks announced it will start covering eligible travel expenses for employees seeking abortions or gender-affirming procedures. However, the company had previously been under fire for moves that, some claimed, were aimed against workers wanting to unionize.

In April, the NLRB called on Starbucks to reinstate three workers at its Phoenix location with their usual schedules and accommodations. NLRB Region 28 Regional Director Cornele Overstreet petitioned in United States District Court for injunctive relief for the workers in question, saying they were “victims of unfair labor practices.” In letting go of the workers, Overstreet said that the Seattle-based company was retaliating against members of the union organizing committee.

In February, Starbucks fired seven workers in its Memphis, TN-based branch. In January, the employees allowed members of the media into the store as part of the public launch of their unionization effort. However, Starbucks’ move to terminate the workers’ employment fueled accusations that the company is retaliating against a growing labor movement at its locations across the U.S.

More than 100 of the coffee chain’s 9,000 U.S. cafes have voted to unionize under Workers United in the last seven months.

Recently, about one and a half months since Twitter announced it’s selling the company to Elon Musk for $44 billion, a report claimed that the business mogul’s Tesla monitored employees in a Facebook group and more broadly on social media. The electric vehicle company was paying a consultancy, MWW PR, to do the monitoring in 2017 and 2018, at a time when workers sought to form a union at the Tesla factory in Fremont, CA, reported CNBC.


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