Four senators ask Starbucks to reveal how much it has spent on lawyers and consulting fees

Four senators ask Starbucks to reveal how much it has spent on lawyers and consulting fees

NEW YORK, October 5, Reuters -- Four U.S. Senators have asked Starbucks to disclose how much Starbucks has spent on lawyers and consulting fees to counter the growing union membership at hundreds of its locations in the United States.

Senators Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal, both Democrats, and independent Bernie Sanders, who caucus with Democrats, sent a letter late Tuesday to Starbucks Corp Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz and its board of directors.

According to a copy of the letter seen by Reuters, they cited reports that Starbucks is engaging in illegal union-busting tactics and asked Starbucks to respond within a month.

Starbucks said in response to the letter that they were confident in our stringent compliance with federal labor law and that we appreciate every opportunity to share the facts and address inaccuracies about our company and our partners.

In the past year, 245 out of Starbucks' nearly 9,000 company owned U.S. locations have voted to unionize.

The senators said they want to see the guidance that Starbucks gave to managers about how to deal with workers organizing unions and whether spending expenditures to counter unions were listed in its tax filings.

They also asked for a list of changes the Seattle-based chain has made to benefits for non-unionized employees.

The company has expanded coverage for adoption services on Monday that apply to all employees, as well as increased coverage for adoption services. Some other enhanced benefits, including hourly pay hikes, were only given to employees who are not in a union.

Warren said in emailed messages to Reuters that Starbucks is weaponizing benefits and wage increases to discourage workers from organizing. Bargaining is tentatively set to begin on various stores this month.

In August, the National Labor Relations Board accused Starbucks of illegally withholding raises from unionized workers.

Starbucks said on a company blog that labor law requires it to negotiate any changes in benefits or working conditions with the union representing those employees.