Starbucks union organizers wanted credit card tips. Now they are excluded | CNN Business

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As a debate unfolds online about Starbucks’ new debit and credit card tipping option, some workers are feeling frustrated — and it has nothing to do with tipping etiquette. Union organizers who requested this new feature months ago have been disqualified.

It’s been almost a year since the first Starbucks store voted to unionize, sparking a national movement. Early in the effort to unionize, regulators called for better pay and more input into how stores were run. They also wanted a better tipping option.

“One of the first public demands we made last fall, when we launched our campaign, was credit card tipping,” the Starbucks union said in a statement to CNN. “This is a clear case of union workers pressuring Starbucks to improve working conditions for all Starbucks baristas.”

As Starbucks tries to fend off the rising tide of unionization, it’s rolling out new benefits and perks that are guaranteed only to employees at non-union stores. Card tipping is no exception.

Starbucks says it cannot legally apply new benefits to stores that have voted to unionize.

Changes required to implement this new rewards channel may amend the terms and conditions of employment for [employees]As of November, 264 stores have voted to form a union, and 58 have voted against. There were about 10,200 company-operated locations in North America as of October.

But union organizers see it as an attempt to intimidate workers.

“Starbucks is rolling out all of these benefits in quick succession to basically bribe non-union stores to stay non-union, and to exact revenge on union workers — to discipline us for fighting for workers’ rights,” said Billie Addewson, a Starbucks company. The employee who organized the union’s campaign on site in Olympia, Washington.

The coffee shop chain has for years allowed customers to tip when paying with their Starbucks Card in the Starbucks app, or leave a cash tip. Union Stores never lose access to these options.

But Starbucks (SBUX) only started rolling out its credit and debit card tipping system, which is now available nationally, in September.

Despite reports of backlash to the new option, card tips seem to have been generally well received. Nearly half of credit or debit card purchases have included a tip since its introduction, according to a Starbucks spokesperson.

Starbucks held the cucumber for months before introducing it to stores. The tipping feature has been “one of our most requested opportunities…and this is something we’re going to accelerate as fast as we can,” interim CEO Howard Schultz said during a call with an analyst in May.

“You can’t prove, of course, that Starbucks took the idea from the union,” said Grace Norris, a Starbucks store employee. “But apparently that’s what happened.”

Otherwise, Starbucks (SBUX) would have implemented the option earlier, depending on its reasons. This practice has become common in bars, cafes and other restaurants. “It is frustrating for Starbucks (SBUX) to continually roll out these new benefits and to intentionally exclude unionized stores,” she said.

Norris operates a site in Lansing, Michigan. The site, which voted to unionize in June and has no option of flipping the card. But she recently picked a shift at a non-union site.

As she worked through the drive-thru, she noticed that customers added a gratuity to their purchase more often, to offset any embarrassment she felt giving them the option to tip. At her shop, she said, “we love” the opportunity to earn more tips.

Despite the frustration, Adeosun, who started working at Starbucks in 2015, still sees the positive side.

“Even though unionized workers don’t have credit cards right now, it still looks like a union victory,” she said. “These benefits wouldn’t even exist without the union campaign.”

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