Unionization Saga at Starbucks

Unionization Saga at Starbucks
Case Code: HROB240
Case Length: 10 Pages
Period: 2020-2022
Pub Date: 2023
Teaching Note: Available
Price: Rs.300
Organization: Starbucks Corporation
Industry: Diversified
Countries: United States
Themes: Collective Bargaining, Crisis Management & Conflict, Employee Benefits,Compensation Policy
Unionization Saga at Starbucks
Abstract Case Intro 1 Case Intro 2 Excerpts


The case describes the unionization movement at Starbucks in the US. The case touches upon the initial response of the company to the unionization campaign. The case also describes unionization trends in the food & beverage industry in the US. Next, the case describes in detail the grievances of employees around labor practices at Starbucks. The case then focuses on Starbucks’ response through its interim CEO Howard Schultz (Schultz) who was appointed for the third time to manage the unionization efforts. In his earlier stints, Schultz had a very clear anti-union approach and convinced the workers through various benefits to avoid joining unions. However, workers at Starbucks United alleged that the company’s offer of enhanced benefits was in response to the union drive.

Since the workers were not ready to trust the coffee chain’s intention unlike earlier, Laxman Narasimhan, who joined in October 2022 and would take charge in April 2023 as CEO, would have to quickly take a different approach to manage the situation and avoid dilution of the brand.


The case is structured to achieve the following teaching objectives:

  • Identify the reasons employees join worker unions while employers resist them.
  • Examine the phases, challenges and norms that govern the unionization process.
  • Recognize the importance of collective bargaining.
  • Assess how company leadership needs to respond to the labor movement.



Collective bargaining; Trade unions; Employee benefits; Organizational conflicts; National Labor Relations Act; Manpower Planning; Industrial Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Collective Bargaining; Labor Relations

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