Starbucks said Friday an executive who played a key role in the company’s response to a growing labor campaign would leave by the end of the month.
In a letter to employees, who Starbucks calls “partners,” the company’s chief operating officer said Rossann Williams, president of retail for North America, would be leaving after 17 years with the company. ‘company. The letter said the decision was “preceded by a discussion of a future opportunity for Rossann within the company, which she declined.”
John Culver, the chief operating officer, added in the letter that Ms. Williams “not only has been a strong advocate for our partners, but has also been a champion of our mission, culture and operational excellence. “.
Since December, when a Buffalo store became the only one of nearly 9,000 Starbucks-owned stores to have a union, the campaign has quickly spread across the country.
The union has won more than 80% of more than 175 elections in which the National Labor Relations Board has declared the winner, and workers have officially called for elections in more than 275 stores in total.
After workers at three Buffalo-area stores ran for union office in August, Ms. Williams traveled to the city and spent much of the fall there leading the company’s response to countryside. She spent many hours in stores, interviewing employees about workplace concerns and even assisting with tasks like throwing out trash.
But some workers said the presence of such a high-ranking official in their stores was intimidating and even “surreal”.
Labor experts have also raised concerns that Ms Williams and other Starbucks officials deployed to stores could violate labor laws by intimidating workers and effectively offering to improve working conditions if employees were voting against unionization.
The National Labor Relations Council subsequently filed a complaint against the company to this effect, after investigating and finding the merits of the accusations.
The company has denied breaking the law and has long said it was seeking to address operational issues such as understaffing and inadequate training, efforts it said predated the organizing campaign.
In response to a question about whether she or the company might jeopardize the terms of a fair union election, Ms Williams said in an interview in October that she had no choice but to intervene. .
“If I went to a market and saw the condition some of these stores are in, and I didn’t do anything about it, it would be so against my job,” she told L. ‘era. “There’s no way I can come here and say I’m not going to do anything.”
Mr. Culver’s letter said that Ms. Williams would be replaced by Sara Trilling, who most recently oversaw the company’s operations in the Asia-Pacific region.