SEATTLE (AP) – Rawson Williams, president of Starbucks North America, who was a key figure in the company’s push against employee unionization, is leaving the company after 17 years.
In a letter to Starbucks employees, whom the company calls “partners,” Chief Operating Officer John Culver said the decision was “not taken lightly” and that Williams was offered another position at the company. which he refused.
Meanwhile, Sarah Trilling has been promoted to executive vice president and president of Starbucks North America. Trilling is a 20-year Starbucks veteran, most recently serving as senior vice president and president of Starbucks Asia Pacific in Hong Kong.
Starbucks is among the latest large companies to see union efforts among their hourly workers. In December, a Starbucks store in Buffalo became the first store to unionize into one of the coffee retailer’s captive US stores. Since then, at least 150 of Starbucks’ 9,000 company-owned US stores have voted to unionize, and at least 10 stores have declined to unionize, according to the National Labor Relations Board.
Williams told employees in a letter last year that Starbucks has never supported unionization, preferring to speak directly to employees, but respects legal process and wants to work with people in Buffalo who have voted for union representation.
However, in April of this year, federal labor officials alleged that Starbucks retaliated against workers in Phoenix after learning workers there were attempting to organize.
The filing states, “Among other things, Starbucks disciplined, suspended and fired one employee, constructively fired another, and recently granted unpaid leave after accommodations were canceled.” But kept a third.”