Starbucks accused of more than 200 labor offenses in the NLRB complaint

Starbucks workers react as they speak to the media following a union vote in Buffalo, New York, on December 9, 2021.

Lindsay DeDario | Reuters

The regional director of the National Labor Relations Board in Buffalo, NY, issued a complaint Friday in which he accused Starbucks of 29 allegations of unfair work practices that included more than 200 violations of the National Labor Relations Act.

The complaint stems from claims made by Starbucks Workers United against the company in Buffalo, where the union started in August.

In the complaint, seen by CNBC, the NLRB accuses Starbucks of interfering in, holding back and forcing employees who try to organize in different ways. The regional office of the independent federal agency said the coffee giant threatened and intimidated workers by closing shops in the area, reducing workers̵[ads1]7; compensation, enforcing discrimination against union supporters in a discriminatory manner, engaging in surveillance and firing workers, among other alleged violations. .

The complaint also notes that senior Starbucks officials made “unique and repeated” visits to Buffalo and held mandatory anti-union meetings, noting that leaders, including CEO Howard Schultz, had promised an increase in benefits if workers refrained from organizing. . Buffalo has been at the center of the union. The city is home to the first store that voted in favor of organizing in December and triggered a movement that spread across the country.

“The complaint, issued by the NLRB Regional Director in Buffalo, involves important cases,” Starbucks spokeswoman Reggie Borges said in a statement to CNBC. “However, Starbucks does not agree that the allegations are justified and the issuance of the complaint does not constitute a finding of the NLRB. It is the beginning of a lawsuit that allows both sides to be heard and to present evidence. We believe the allegations contained in the complaint are false, and we look forward to presenting our evidence when the charges are dropped. “

Since the movement began last year, more than 50 Starbucks stores have voted to organize with Workers United, and nearly 250 have asked to hold polls across the country. At least five have voted no to organization. Starbucks has nearly 9,000 locations nationwide.

The NLRB regional office’s complaint includes months of charges the union raised against the company. Starbucks will have an opportunity to respond to the allegations.

To remedy the allegations, the NLRB’s Advocate General is seeking the reinstatement of workers and to have either Schultz or Rossann Williams, Executive Vice President of Starbucks North Americas, hold a meeting with staff, union and government officials. At the meeting, which will be videotaped and distributed, an official would read a notice about employees’ rights.

“Starbucks has said that there have never been any violations of unions in Buffalo. Today, the NLRB sets the record right. The complaint confirms the extent and corruption of Starbucks’ behavior in Western New York for most of a year,” Starbucks Workers United said in a statement. “Starbucks will be held accountable for the union-leading minefield they forced workers to go through in the fight for their right to organize. This complaint fully exposes Starbucks’ facade as a ‘progressive company’ and reveals the truth about Howard Schultz’s anti- trade union war. “

Starbucks did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Schultz, who is working in his third term as Starbucks CEO, has previously been an active and vocal opponent of the union. The company recently announced wage and training investments for workers, but said these benefits could not automatically go to unionized stores without separate bargaining discussions.

“The union contract will not even come close to what Starbucks offers,” Schultz told analysts at the company’s earnings conference on Tuesday.

The baristas’ union advancement gained more exposure on Thursday as the White House hosted leaders from organizing campaigns at Starbucks and other companies such as Amazon. Starbucks wrote to the White House asking for a separate meeting, calling the event “deeply worrying”, as it says the majority of partners are opposed to being in a union.

Starbucks Workers United has filed more than 100 unfair charges against Starbucks, while the company has filed two against the union in return. Starbucks Workers United also won recently when NLRB officials sued a federal court to force the company to bring back activist employees who say they were removed due to union campaigns.

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