Members and supporters of Starbucks Workers United protest outside a Starbucks store in Dupont Circle in Washington, DC on November 16, 2023

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Starbucks said it plans to resume contract negotiations with the union that represents its baristas starting in January.

Saturday marks the second anniversary of the first unionization of company-owned Starbucks cafes in the United States. Since then, more than 360 locations have voted to unionize, representing approximately 4% of the company’s total corporate footprint in the United States.

To date, no locations have signed a contract with the company. The possible resumption of talks could open a window to resolve a stalemate in one of the most high-profile labor disputes in the United States in recent years.

Employees have pushed Starbucks, among other things, to increase wages and address the so-called staff shortage in the cafes.

Labor law does not require that employers and unions enter into a collective agreement, only that both negotiate in good faith. After a year, workers who have lost confidence in the union can apply for de-registration, putting negotiations on hold. At least 19 locations have filed requests for decertification with the National Labor Relations Board, but seven were rejected due to rulings that found Starbucks violated federal labor laws.

Starbucks and the Starbucks Workers United union began talks more than a year ago, but negotiations have been difficult. Both parties accused the other side of not negotiating in good faith.

Starbucks insisted on in-person negotiations, with no representatives appearing via Zoom. The union has accused Starbucks of using this excuse as a stalling tactic.

“We agree that the current impasse should not be acceptable to any of us,” Starbucks Chief Partner Officer Sara Kelly wrote in a letter to Lynne Fox, president of Workers United International, obtained by CNBC. “It didn’t help Starbucks, Workers United and especially our partners. With this in mind, we ask for your support and consent to resume negotiations.”

In the letter, Kelly also lists several conditions for resuming negotiations, including no audio or video recordings or broadcasts.

If Workers United agrees, Starbucks hopes to begin discussions again with a representative group of stores in January.

The union said it has received the letter, is reviewing it and plans to respond.

“We never said no to a meeting with Starbucks. Anything that positively advances negotiations is most welcome,” Fox said in a statement to CNBC.

In November, Starbucks workers staged their largest industrial action ever, walking out of more than 200 stores on Red Cup Day, one of the chain’s busiest days of the year. Starbucks Workers United said the strike resulted in a big change that baristas had been demanding: the ability to turn off mobile ordering on busy promotional days. Starbucks said the change to its mobile ordering system was already in the works before the demonstration.

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