Starbucks nixes vaccine mandate after Supreme Court ruling


Starbucks will not require its US-based employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, just days after the Supreme Court struck down the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for companies with more than 100 workers.

The Seattle-based coffee chain, which employs some 228,000 workers in 8,000 stores in the US, had imposed a vaccine mandate in line with federal guidelines. But in a 6-3 vote last week, the high court blocked the Biden administration from requiring large companies to impose a vaccine-or-testing mandate on its work force.

“We respect the Court’s ruling and will comply,” Starbucks COO John Culver wrote in a Tuesday memo to employees.

Culver wrote that “we continue to believe strongly in the spirit and intent of the mandate” and that the company would “strongly encourage vaccination and boosters” as well as “disclosure” of vaccination status.

Starbucks told the Associated Press that while 90% have reported their status, the “vast majority” of workers are fully vaccinated. The company declined to give a specific number.

Starbucks employs nearly 230,000 workers in more than 8,000 locations across the United States.
SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett

The company also wants its employees to ditch cloth masks. Instead, they were urged to wear medical-grade surgical masks provided to them by their bosses.

Days after Starbucks put in place the initial vaccine mandate, workers at the country’s first unionized store in Buffalo walked out to protest what they described as “unsafe working conditions” due to the COVID-19 case surge.

Employees at another Starbucks location in the Buffalo area also voted to form a union earlier this month.

Other companies have also scrapped their vaccine mandates after the court’s ruling. General Electric, the Boston-based company that employs 56,000 workers, did away with its mandate last week.

But other firms have kept the mandate in place. Citigroup Inc., the banking giant based in New York, set a Jan. 14 deadline for employees to get vaccinated.

The company said that more than 99% of its employees have complied.

Carhartt, the Michigan-based work clothing maker, also kept its mandate in place for its 3,000-strong work force.