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Starbucks to resume union talks to mend strained ties with employees

(Reuters) -Starbucks has reached out to the union representing hundreds of its stores in the United States as the coffee chain looks to mend its strained relationship with some of its frontline employees, according to a letter seen by Reuters on Friday.

Last month, Starbucks had told Reuters in an email that the Workers United union had not engaged on contract bargaining in more than five months.

The union represents more than 9,000 Starbucks employees at about 360 U.S. stores and has been urging the coffee giant to implement better wages, staffing and schedules.

"I am writing you in the hope that Workers United and Starbucks can find a way to resume bargaining at the earliest possible time," Starbucks Chief Partner Officer Sara Kelly said in a letter addressed to Workers United President Lynne Fox.

Kelly proposed that the bargaining with a set of representative stores resume in January 2024.

"We are open to hearing other ideas and rules of engagement on how bargaining could proceed," the letter said, adding that the current impasse has not helped either the company or the union.

Fox said in a statement to Reuters, "We have never said no to meeting with Starbucks. Anything that moves bargaining forward in a positive way is most welcome."

Starbucks has nearly 10,000 U.S. company-owned locations, and according to the company less than 3% of those stores are represented by a union.

In November, Starbucks said it would raise hourly pay for its U.S. retail workers by at least 3% from 2024. In the same month, workers at hundreds of its stores had walked off their jobs during its key promotional event Red Cup Day.

The Strategic Organizing Center (SOC), a coalition of North American labor unions, last month said it had nominated three candidates for board seats at at Starbucks.

(Reporting by Granth Vanaik in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Juveria Tabassum; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)