USA Today reports that "Starbucks and the union representing the coffee giant's organized workers have filed dueling lawsuits over a social media post about the Israel-Hamas war … The Seattle-based chain filed a federal lawsuit against Starbucks Workers United in Iowa on Wednesday over a pro-Palestine post shared by a union account in the early days of the Hamas-Israel war, court records show.
"This post damaged the company's reputation and garnered negative attention from customers, with more than 1,000 people sending in complaints, Starbucks claims in the lawsuit. The company also says that workers and stores across the country have since received threatening phone calls, hostile customers and vandalism.
"In their own lawsuit filed in federal court in Pennsylvania on Wednesday, the union says Starbucks - long known for its rocky history with organizers - is using the incident to perpetuate an 'illegal anti-union campaign by falsely attacking the union’s reputation with workers and the public'."
According to the story, "On Oct. 9, the Starbucks Workers United's account on X shared a post that read: 'Solidarity with Palestine!' Starbucks said in a statement that the post included an image of a bulldozer tearing down a fence on the Israel-Gaza border … The post was deleted within about 40 minutes, but shares of the post and other posts expressing similar sentiments remained on the accounts of individual union members and local Starbucks Workers United branches.
"The union said in its lawsuit that workers put up the message without the permission of union leaders."
USA Today says that "citing copyright infringement in its lawsuit, Starbucks wants the union to stop using 'Starbucks' in the union name and stop using a logo with a green circle resembling the coffee chain's."
Starbucks Executive Vice President Sara Kelly tells USA Today that "the post reflects the union's 'support for violence perpetrated by Hamas' and that Starbucks 'unequivocally condemns acts of terrorism, hate and violence'.
"'Unfortunately, as violence against the innocent in the region continues to escalate, some people are mistakenly tying these remarks to us, because Workers United and its affiliates and members continue to use our name, logo and intellectual property,' Kelly said. 'None of these groups speak for Starbucks Coffee Company and do not represent our company’s views, positions, or beliefs. Their words and actions belong to them, and them alone'."
- KC's View:
This story is precisely why I've avoided using the current Mideast situation for "business lessons" - this kind of squabbling strikes me as petty and distracting in view of the real world facts and the tragedy of what is happening in that part of the world right now.
These lawsuits seem designed to make points that have nothing to do with war and peace, with the violence that is ravaging the region and destroying people's lives, and that could easily escalate in ways that nobody can control.
The fact that the posting was taken down in 40 minutes suggests that the union knew that one of its members had crossed the line. It is hard for me to imagine that any thinking, feeling person who is not mis-guided by ideology would come out in favor of the Hamas terrorist attacks on Israeli innocents - even if one is sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.
I'm not going to dive too deep on the politics of this, precisely because the waters are so murky.
But here's my suggestion. Starbucks' and the union's leadership should agree to drop their lawsuits and then shut the hell up. This crap just makes them both look shallow, stupid and tone-deaf. There is so much more important in the world than your unionization debate.
It is time to realign your priorities. And then, I repeat: Shut the hell up.