Starbucks charged with extensive labor law violations


The National Labor Relations Board filed a wide-ranging complaint May 6 against Starbucks Corporation—finding that the company committed 29 separate violations of federal labor law after workers began union campaigns at a handful of stores in New York. The complaint, filed by NLRB Regional Director Linda Leslie, brings together a slew of unfair labor practice charges that the union Workers United filed against Starbucks from November 2021 through April 2022.

The NLRB’s investigation found that illegal anti-union activity began shortly after the first few Buffalo, New York, Starbucks filed for a union election in August 2021. Almost immediately, Starbucks began holding mandatory (or effectively mandatory) anti-union meetings, the NLRB says. The complaint lists 42 instances of temporary store closures for anti-union meetings, all of which reduced employees’ compensation. The complaint also found that Starbucks:

  • threatened to discipline workers for union activity;
  • selectively enforced workplace rules to punish union organizers;
  • retaliated against specific workers, suspending two employees and firing six others;
  • monitored workers’ conversations on headsets;
  • refused to promote pro-union workers;
  • refused to let pro-union workers transfer to other stores;
  • refused to let pro-union workers train new employees;
  • reduced pro-union workers’ hours or sent them home early;
  • told employees not to talk about their wages;
  • told employees they wouldn’t get raises if they unionized;
  • promised employees increased benefits and better employment conditions if they didn’t unionize;
  • said they’d lose a direct relationship with management;
  • began overstaffing Buffalo stores to dilute union support; and
  • barred workers from posting union literature and distributing pins.

And the unlawful behavior didn’t stop after the union campaigns resulted in union certification. At the first location to unionize, Starbucks unlawfully changed workplace policies without bargaining with the union, the NLRB alleges. The Buffalo store unionized in December, and in February the company rolled out a new “minimum availability policy” at that location. Because it relates to terms of employment at the store, that’s a mandatory bargaining subject, the NLRB noted.

The unlawful anti-union tactics likely aren’t confined to New York; it’s just the site of the largest federal labor complaint to be issued against Starbucks since union organizing exploded at Starbucks last fall.

To remedy the violations, the NLRB is asking Starbucks to rehire illegally fired workers, reimburse workers for lost wages due to union busting, apologize to employees, and bargain in good faith with unionized stores.

The case will go before a federal administrative law judge July 11.

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