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Starbucks’ new CEO has ‘a great opportunity to correct the ship and just listen’: Union organizer

Jaysin Saxton, Starbucks Workers United Union Organizer and former Starbucks employee, details his testimony to Congress at a hearing concerning alleged union busting by Starbucks under the leadership of former CEO Howard Schultz.

Video transcript

JAYSIN SAXTON: If they really want to be partners with us, they'd hear those concerns and they'd make those changes and they'd fill-- so Starbucks has an empty seat that they leave at the shareholders table for their partners. They fill that seat and hear what we have to say.

- That was Jaysin Saxton, a former Starbucks employee and current Starbucks Workers United union organizer, testifying today in front of the Senate Help Committee over accusations of union busting from Starbucks and its former CEO Howard Schultz. Jaysin joins us now, fresh off his appearance in front of the senators. Good to see you, man. Do you feel like you made your case and you were heard today? Any progress made?

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JAYSIN SAXTON: Absolutely. I definitely feel like we were heard today and we were able to make our point and just tell not only the senators, but Howard Schultz as well, this is what's happening. And these are the things that we want changed. And we hope you come and hear us.

- Jaysin, I want to play for you a quick bite of what we heard from former CEO Howard Schultz today, what he had to say about the negotiations and how he wants to handle-- he would like to see Starbucks handle the employee relations. Let's play this. And I'll get your reaction on the other end.

HOWARD SCHULTZ: Starbucks Coffee Company also has the legal right to provide a vision for our employees, which currently represent 99% of the 250,000 who wear the green apron, that our vision is a preference to maintain our direct relationship. And in terms of what you said, as I said to Chairman Sanders, those are allegations. And Starbucks Coffee Company unequivocally has not broken the law.

- Jaysin, what's your response?

JAYSIN SAXTON: So he can sit there and he can say that. That's totally his right. Unfortunately, they're not just all allegations. Some of them have been found to be with merit. So at some point, he's going to have to reckon with that. And when he does, I hope he apologizes and begins to actually bargain with us because I have not had a single bargaining session at my store.

- Some people see this story from the outside and they say, hey, I go, I get my coffee every day, and these people are making $15 an hour minimum, average $17 an hour. That goes up to $23 an hour. Two or more years service, you get a 5% raise. Those with five years or more get up to a 10% raise. And everyone's offered health benefits provided you work 20-plus hours. A lot of people see that and say, that seems like a pretty fair deal. Why is it not?

JAYSIN SAXTON: So, for one, you have to make the benefits hour cap, which you said, the 20 hours. It's almost impossible to make that when at the same time Starbucks can easily cut your labor hours. So with that, like I said in the hearing, I have a partner in my store who went down from 25 hours to 5 hours. So that person is at jeopardy of losing their benefits.

- Jaysin, what are the negotiations like? What have they been like when you have talked to Starbucks executives? I don't know if you've had any interaction with Howard Schultz himself ahead of today. But what exactly has that process been like?

JAYSIN SAXTON: So I have not met Howard Schultz. The executives have not come to bargain with my store at all. So I can't really attest to that. But from what I have heard from other people who have had at least one bargaining session is that a few minutes in they get up and they leave. And that's it. They don't want to bargain with us as much. As they tout that they are bargaining in good faith, they're walking out of meetings just because someone's on Zoom.

- Yeah. Much has been made of that particular aspect here, Zoom versus in-person. Why is that such a sticking point?

JAYSIN SAXTON: I don't know why that's such a sticking point for Starbucks. I mean, like was said in the hearing, the shareholders can come to the meetings through Zoom. But for us workers, we are expected to show up face to face with them. And these are the same people who have been intimidating and telling us that we could lose all of our benefits, threatening our livelihoods. Some of us don't want to go and sit face to face with that.

- Jaysin, do you expect any of these interactions, any of the approach here to change from Starbucks under its new CEO?

JAYSIN SAXTON: I hope so. I hope the new CEO is watching the hearing today. And I hope he heard us as well as Howard Schultz as well as the senators. And he has a great opportunity to correct the ship and just listen. And that's all we're asking is just listen and come to the table with us and give us the respect that we deserve.

- At the center of this is the National Labor Relations Board. Are they at the center of this? Do you feel like they have a side that they are rooting for in these negotiations?

JAYSIN SAXTON: Honestly, I think that's just a distraction. The NLRB is a neutral organization who rules over these cases neutrally.

- Congressman Cassidy, Bill Cassidy, calling it a smear campaign against Schultz and Starbucks based upon allegations, in his words, that everyone knows are still under litigation. Jaysin Saxton, we appreciate you taking the time. Thank you.