Tom Daley
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Starbucks Accused of Threatening Gender-Affirming Health Care Benefits

Starbucks cup

Starbucks store managers have allegedly informed employees that its gender-affirming health care benefits could disappear if employees unions, according to a complaint submitted to the U.S. labor board.

Company employees have also made the claims in interviews with Bloomberg, which first reported the allegations.

“I think the company realizes that we as trans partners feel particularly vulnerable at this time,” Starbucks employee Neha Cremin in Oklahoma told the outlet. “I think that in some cases they are willing to take advantage of that.”

According to the complaint filed Monday, union Workers United said Starbucks had threatened its workers with a loss of benefits at the store Cremin worked. The union accuses the company of attempting to prevent its employees from organizing.

“Just know that if you unionize, when you are negotiating your benefits, you could gain, you could lose, or you could stay the same,” Cremin said her manager told her. Cremin alleges that her manager then said, “I know specifically, you have used the trans health-care benefits.”

Cremin told Them, “trans rights are labor rights.” 

“Our fight to make this state better for transgender people will also benefit all workers, and the current wave of unionization makes the workplace a safer place for transgender people,” Cremin said. “We deserve access to healthcare. We deserve to be paid enough not just to survive but also to transition, to love, to thrive. When we fight to make the workplace better for trans people, we help all workers.”

Another Starbucks in Pittsburgh also told Bloomberg that her manager had brought up the company’s gender-affirming health care benefits. The outlet reports that the employee said her manager had asked her what if her coworkers negotiated for a new benefits package, leaving out the trans health care support.

Starbucks has denied the allegations.

“The claims are not true. We are not telling our partners that,” Starbucks spokesperson Reggie Borges told The Advocate in an email.

“All partners enrolled in Starbucks healthcare will have access to these benefits. In stores represented by a union, federal law requires good faith collective bargaining over all wages, benefits, and working conditions. That means Starbucks cannot make promises or guarantees about any benefits,” Borges added. “For example, even if we were to offer a certain benefit at the bargaining table, a union could decide to exchange it for something else. Simply put, it’s difficult to predict the outcome of negotiations, and each store’s negotiation may look different. What we can say for sure, is that Starbucks will always bargain in good faith.”

Starbucks has offered trans-inclusive health care since 2013 and expanded it in 2018 to support procedures such as breast reduction or augmentation surgery, facial feminization, hair transplants, and others, according to its website.

On Tuesday, Starbucks's Workers United Twitter account posted that 150 stores had unionized, adding that six months ago there were none. 

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