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Starbucks is holding 2-hour employee ‘connection’ meetings amid heightened tensions with some baristas

Paper cup in a Starbucks coffee shop in China in 2016Starbucks announced plans for store meetings centered around connection.

Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images

  • Starbucks is rolling out a new mission and plans for team meetings centered on connection.
  • The meetings will include coffee tastings, activities, and a video from the company’s new CEO.
  • The announcement comes amid heightened tensions between some baristas and executives.

Starbucks on Monday tweaked its mission and said it would start holding meetings with store employees billed as “connection” sessions.

The two-hour meetings will include coffee tastings, group activities, and games, the company said. They will kick off with a video message from Laxman Narasimhan, the company’s new CEO. 

The meetings are not intended to address operational matters, and the company said it has previously held employee forums focused on business and culture. The new initiatives focus on connection and Starbucks’ role in bringing people together, the company said.

The moves come amid heightened tensions between some baristas and executives. Over 300 stores have voted to unionize, and the company has been accused of targeting union organizers.

“Starbucks has a long history of bringing together partners to explore opportunities to evolve and modernize the business, brand, and culture to meet the needs of the day and, importantly, the future of the company,” a Starbucks representative said.

The company described the sessions, which will include about 250,000 Starbucks partners at 10,000 stores in the US and Canada, as a “new moment designed to connect Starbucks partners to each other, our customers, and our coffee heritage.” Starbucks, which refers to its employees as partners, said it hoped the sessions would instill in employees a sense of ownership and connection to their team and to customers.

“If Starbucks really wanted to connect with its partners, it could meaningfully participate in bargaining with workers at the more than 300 stores who have joined together and voted to form a union,” a representative from Starbucks Workers United, the union representing some employees, said in response to the sessions.

“Instead, it has walked out of nearly 100 sessions after just minutes, without taking the time to listen to workers’ proposals to make Starbucks a better place. These so-called connection sessions are nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt by the company to continue its unprecedented union-busting campaign.”

The representative from Starbucks disputed the characterization of how Starbucks is working with the union.  

“For the 3% of US stores that are represented by a union, Starbucks has proposed more than 390 collective bargaining sessions, and Workers United has responded to just 24% of those proposals. Workers United’s claims fail to acknowledge that we have recently completed full-day bargaining sessions in the last month, which is a promising development.”

Last month, former long-time CEO Howard Schultz spoke to Congress regarding accusations that Starbucks attempted to interfere with unionization and collective-bargaining efforts at its stores while he was CEO. Schultz recently stepped down after two stints as CEO.

The last time the company refreshed its mission was in 2008, Narasimhan wrote in a blog post on the company’s site. It was a wholly different time for the company and the culture. 

“Starbucks is in the business of human connection … and the world needs us more than ever,” Narasimhan wrote. “Humanity is facing a crisis of loneliness, division, and polarization.” 

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Read the original article on Business Insider