Press Release

Historic Win for Workers’ Rights! Majority of Starbucks Shareholders Vote to Support Freedom of Association Proposal

Originally shared by New York City Comptroller Brad Lander.

New York, NY – New York City Comptroller Brad Lander and a coalition of Starbucks investors welcomed the support of a majority of shares for their proposal requesting an independent third party worker rights assessment. Over 52% of investor shares were pledged in support leading up to and during the company’s Annual General Meeting.

The New York City Retirement Systems, PIRC on behalf of pension fund clients, SHARE on behalf of The Catherine Donnelly Foundation, and Trillium ESG Global Equity Fund filed a proposal requesting the Board of Starbucks to oversee an independent assessment of management’s adherence to Starbucks’ human rights commitments.

The proposal specifically requests that the board commission and oversee a third-party assessment of management’s adherence to Starbucks’ commitments to workers’ rights, including freedom of association and collective bargaining. It also requests that the assessment address management non-interference when employees exercise their right to form or join a trade union as well as steps to remedy any practices found to be inconsistent with Starbucks’ stated commitments.

“Investors who want to see a thriving, successful and flourishing Starbucks sent a strong message that the company must live up to its own policies and values. The majority support from shareholders for our proposal reflects a growing demand for an honest accounting of the discrepancy between Starbucks’ purported values and management’s anti-union behavior. Today’s Senate testimony from former CEO Schultz continues to ring hollow against the numerous complaints from workers,” said Comptroller Brad Lander.

“In the past year, investors have sent a clear message – at Amazon, Tesla, and now at Starbucks: companies must respect international standards – and their own policies – regarding freedom of association” said Anthony Schein, Director of Shareholder Advocacy at SHARE.

“It is time for Starbucks management to wake up and smell the coffee – and change their approach to fundamental labour rights. I look forward to a renewed engagement with the company.”

“With shareholders sending a clear message with the solid majority vote, CEO Narasimhan and Chair Hobson have a perfect opportunity to pivot,” said Jonas D. Kron, Chief Advocacy Officer at Trillium Asset Management. “Noting that recently approximately 160 Starbucks corporate employees signed a public letter asking management to commit to a policy of neutrality when it comes to union organizing, it is evident that the tide is shifting and that Mr. Narasimhan has the chance to set a new course when it comes to worker rights.”

“This is a huge signal from shareholders to the company of a need to take stock,” said Owen Thorne, Responsible Investment Manager at Merseyside Pension Fund, a PIRC client. “Starbucks management is in conflict with its own workforce and some behaviour does not appear to align with the company’s own human rights commitments. As a long-term investor we believe that getting the management of people right is critical. I urge the board to use the vote for this proposal as an opportunity to reset its approach.”

The coalition holds 2.2 million Starbucks shares worth $238.85 million as of January 13, 2023.

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