SEATTLE (AP) — Starbucks North America president Rossann Williams, who was a leading figure in the company’s fight against worker unionization, is leaving the company after 17 years.
In a letter sent to Starbucks employees, whom the company calls “partners,” chief operating officer John Culver said the decision “was not taken lightly” and added that Williams had been offered another job with the company, which she had turned down.
Sara Trilling, meanwhile, was promoted to executive vice president and president of Starbucks North America. Trilling is a 20-year veteran of Starbucks and most recently served as senior vice president and president of Starbucks Asia Pacific in Hong Kong.
Starbucks is among the latest wave of top companies seeing union organizing efforts among their hourly workers. In December, a Starbucks store in Buffalo became the first to unionize at one of the company-owned U.S. stores. At least 150 of the 9,000 U.S. stores run by Starbucks have voted to unionize since then, according to the National Labor Relations Board, and at least 10 stores have rejected the union.
Williams told employees in a letter last year that Starbucks has never favored unionization and prefers to talk directly to employees, but respects legal process and wants to work with those in Buffalo who voted for union representation.
In April of this year, however, federal labor officials alleged Starbucks retaliated against Phoenix workers after learning employees were seeking to unionize.
“Among other things, Starbucks disciplined, suspended and terminated one employee, constructively terminated another and placed a third on unpaid leave after revoking recently granted accommodations,” the filing said.