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Starbucks’ New York City Reserve Roastery becomes the 9th cafe to unionize

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Employees serve customers at a newly opened Starbucks’ Reserve Roasteries in the Meatpacking District on on December 14, 2018 in New York City.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images

Starbucks baristas at its New York City Reserve Roastery voted 46-36 in favor of forming a union on Friday, dealing a blow to incoming interim CEO Howard Schultz that may be more personal.

The Reserve Roastery is the ninth company-owned Starbucks to unionize. On Tuesday, the National Labor Relations Board counted votes for a Knoxville cafe, but a challenged ballot left the results of that effort uncertain. The union was winning by a single vote. Last week, a cafe in Starbucks’ hometown of Seattle and a second location in Mesa, Arizona, also voted to unionize.

To date, only one location has held an election and voted against unionizing under Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union. However, the union pulled a petition for a union election for Roastery manufacturing workers, who were slated to cast their votes on Thursday.

Friday’s win for Starbucks Workers United represents more than just another location in the growing tally of unionized cafes. Starbucks opened the nearly 23,000-square-foot cafe in Manhattan’s meatpacking district in December 2018, during the tenure of CEO Kevin Johnson. But the luxurious store and others like it was actually the brainchild of former CEO Schultz, who retakes the top job Monday on an interim basis as Johnson retires.

“I’m proud of the culmination of our efforts to make our workplaces more democratic and equitable. Community is a value near and dear to my heart and I am grateful and joyous to be in solidarity with my peers,” said Ley Kido,” Starbucks partner of 9 years.

The Reserve Roasteries located in cities like Seattle, Shanghai and Milan were meant to be immersive, upscale coffee experiences to attract both tourists and city-dwellers alike. Schultz wanted to open several dozen of them, but Johnson said in 2019 the company would scale back on those ambitious plans. The last one opened launched in Chicago that year.

Friday’s vote at the New York City Roastery was the first election for Starbucks conducted in person, rather than via mail-in ballots.

]People exit a newly opened Starbucks’ Reserve Roasteries in the Meatpacking District on on December 14, 2018 in New York City.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images

Starbucks’ growing union push will be among the challenges facing Schultz as he once again assumes the chief executive role. During his prior stints as CEO of the coffee chain, Starbucks gained a reputation as a generous and progressive employer, an image that’s now in jeopardy as the union gains momentum and workers share their grievances.

The chain is far from the only company seeing pushback against pay and working conditions by way of union representation. Earlier on Friday, Amazon workers at a Staten Island warehouse voted to become the e-commerce giant’s first unionized facility. And in March, REI Co-op employees at the Manhattan flagship store voted to form the company’s first union in the U.S.

The National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint against Starbucks earlier in March for allegedly retaliating against two Phoenix employees who were trying to organize. The union has also alleged that Starbucks engaged in union-busting across many of its stores that have filed for elections. The company has denied those accusations.

Early union victories in Buffalo have galvanized other Starbucks locations nationwide to organize. More than 150 company-owned cafes have filed for union elections with the National Labor Relations Board, including other New York City locations. Workers at the Astor Place cafe in Manhattan starting casting their ballots on Friday for their mail-in election.

That’s still only a small fraction of Starbucks’ overall footprint, though. The company operates nearly 9,000 locations in the U.S.

The NLRB’s regional director will now have to certify the ballots, a process that could take up to a week. Then the union faces its next real challenge: negotiating a contract with Starbucks. Labor laws don’t require that the employer and union reach a collective bargaining agreement, and contract discussions can drag on for years.

At Starbucks’ annual shareholders meeting several weeks ago, Chair Mellody Hobson said the company understands and recognizes its workers’ right to organize.

“We are also negotiating in good faith, and we want a constructive relationship with the union,” she said.

She said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” earlier that day that Starbucks “made some mistakes” when asked about the union push.



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Fiji fires police commissioner and end security deal with China

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Police operate a security check point in the Fijian capital of Suva in December following general elections. The Pacific island nation has played an important regional role amid competition between China on the one side and Australia, New Zealand and the United States on the other.

Saeed Khan | Afp | Getty Images

Fiji’s president on Friday suspended the commissioner of police following a general election saw the first change in government in the Pacific island nation in 16 years, after the military earlier warned against “sweeping changes.”

President Ratu Wiliame Katonivere said Commissioner of Police Sitiveni Qiliho had been suspended on the advice of the Constitutional Offices Commission, “pending investigation and referral to and appointment of, a tribunal.”

The Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem was also suspended by the commission, the statement said.

Qiliho declined to comment to local media because he said he will face a tribunal over his conduct. He was seen as being close to former prime minister Frank Bainimarama, who led Fiji for 16 years before a coalition of parties narrowly won December’s election and installed Sitiveni Rabuka as leader of the strategically important Pacific nation.

The day before a coalition agreement was struck, Qiliho and Bainimarama called on the military to maintain law and order because they said the hung election result had sparked ethnic tensions, a claim disputed by the coalition parties.

The Pacific island nation, which has a history of military coups, has been pivotal to the region’s response to competition between China and the United States, and struck a deal with Australia in October for greater defence cooperation.

No more China policing deal

On Thursday, Fiji Times reported that Rabuka said his government would end a police training and exchange agreement with China.

“Our system of democracy and justice systems are different so we will go back to those that have similar systems with us,” the prime minister was quoted as saying, referring to Australia and New Zealand.

The prime minister’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Republic of Fiji Military Forces Commander Major General Jone Kalouniwai earlier this month warned Rabuka’s government against making “sweeping changes,” and has insisted it abide by a 2013 constitution which gives the military a key role.



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Inventory glut and underused factories

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Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, with U.S. President Joe Biden (not pictured), announces the tech firm’s plan to build a $20 billion plant in Ohio, from the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus in Washington, January 21, 2022.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Intel’s December earnings showed significant declines in the company’s sales, profit, gross margin, and outlook, both for the quarter and the full year.

Investors hated it, sending the stock over 9% lower in extended trading, despite the fact that Intel did not cut its dividend.

The earnings report, which was the eighth under CEO Pat Gelsinger’s leadership, shows a legendary technology company struggling with many factors outside of its control, including a deeply slumping PC market. It also highlights some of Intel’s current issues with weak demand for its current products and inefficient internal performance, and underscores how precarious the company’s financial health has become.

“Clearly, the financials aren’t what we would hoped,” Gelsinger told analysts.

In short: Intel had a difficult 2022, and 2023 is shaping up to be tough as well.

Here are some of the most concerning bits from Intel’s earnings report and analyst call:

Weak and uncertain guidance

Intel didn’t give full-year guidance for 2023, citing economic uncertainty.

But the data points for the current quarter suggest tough times. Intel guided for about $11 billion in sales in the March quarter, which would be a 40% year-over-year decline. Gross margin will be 34.1%, a huge decrease from the 55.2% in the same quarter in 2021, Gelsinger’s first at the helm.

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But the biggest issue for investors is that Intel guided to a 15 cent non-GAAP loss per share, a big decline for a company that a year ago was reporting $1.13 in profit per share. It would be the first loss per share since last summer, which was the first loss for the company in decades.

An inventory glut

Dropoff in gross margin

Underpinning all of this is that Intel’s gross margin continues to decline, hurting the company’s profitability. One issue is “factory load,” or how efficiently factories run around the clock. Intel said that its gross margin would be hit by 400 basis points, or 4 percentage points, because of factories running under load because of soft demand.

Ultimately, Intel forecasts a 34.1% gross margin in the current quarter — a far cry from the 51% to 53% goal the company set at last year’s investor day. The company says it’s working on it, and the margin could get back to Intel’s goal “in the medium-term” if demand recovers.

“We have a number of initiatives under way to improve gross margins and we’re well under way. When you look at the $3 billion reduction [in costs] that we talked about for 2023, 1 billion of that is in cost of sales and we’re well on our way to getting that billion dollars,” Gelsinger said.

The not-so-bad news: Dividend and self-driving

Long-term investors have always closely watched how the company balances the near-term need to placate shareholders with the massive capital spending needed to stay competitive in the semiconductor manufacturing business.

If Intel is cutting costs and still needing to invest in chip factories to power its turnaround, analysts say it may want to reconsider its dividend. Intel spent $6 billion on dividends in 2022, but did not cut its dividend on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the company said it wants to cut $3 billion in costs for 2023 and analysts believe it wants to spend around $20 billion in capital expenditures to build out its factories.

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Gelsinger was asked about this dynamic on Thursday.

“I’d just say the board, management, we take a very disciplined approach to the capital allocation strategy and we’re going to remain committed to being very prudent around how we allocate capital for the owners and we are committed to maintaining a competitive dividend,” Gelsinger replied.

There was at least one bright spot for Intel on Thursday.

Mobileye, its self-driving subsidiary that went public during the December quarter, reported earlier in the day, showing adjusted earnings per share of 27 cents and revenue growth of 59%, to $656 million. It also forecast strong 2023 revenue of between $2.19 billion and $2.28 billion. Shares rose nearly 6% during regular trading hours Thursday.



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China’s reopening will boost these retail names, Wells Fargo says

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