Starbucks accused of over 200 labor violations in NLRB complaint

Starbucks workers react to a media appeal following a union vote in Buffalo, New York, December 9, 2021.

Lindsey DeDario | Reuters

On Friday, the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board in Buffalo, New York, filed a complaint accusing Starbucks of 29 allegations of unfair labor practices, including more than 200 violations of the National Labor Relations Act.

The complaint relates to claims filed by Starbucks Workers United against a company in Buffalo, where unionization efforts began in August.

In a complaint viewed by CNBC, the NLRB accuses Starbucks of interfering, deterring and coercing employees seeking unionization in various ways. The regional branch of an independent federal agency said the coffee giant threatened and intimidated workers by closing stores in the area, cutting workers’ compensation, discriminating against union supporters, surveilling and firing workers, among other alleged violations. .

The complaint also notes that senior Starbucks officials have made “unprecedented and repeated” visits to Buffalo and held mandatory anti-union meetings, noting that leaders, including CEO Howard Schultz, have promised increased benefits if workers refrain from organizing. Buffalo was at the center of the union movement. The city is home to the first store that voted in favor of the organization in December, sparking a movement that spread across the country.

“The complaint filed by NLRB Buffalo Regional Director raises important issues,” Starbucks spokesman Reggie Borges said in a statement to CNBC. “However, Starbucks does not agree that the claims are valid and filing a complaint is not NLRB’s conclusion. This is the start of a lawsuit that allows both parties to be heard and present evidence. We believe the accusations. contained in the complaint are false and we look forward to presenting our evidence when the allegations are heard.”

Since the movement began last year, more than 50 Starbucks stores have voted to merge with Workers United, and nearly 250 have petitioned for the vote across the country. At least five voted against the organization. Starbucks has nearly 9,000 locations across the country.

The NLRB regional office’s complaint relates to allegations made by the union against the company over the past few months. Starbucks will have the opportunity to respond to the allegations.

To correct the allegations, the NLRB general counsel is seeking the reinstatement of workers and a meeting between Schultz or Rossanne Williams, executive vice president of Starbucks North Americas, involving employees, unions and government representatives. At the meeting, which will be videotaped and distributed, the officer will read a notice of worker’s rights.

“Starbucks has said there has never been a union busting in Buffalo. Today NLRB sets a record. The complaint confirms the extent and immorality of Starbucks behavior in Western New York for much of the year,” Starbucks employees said. United said in a statement. “Starbucks will be held accountable for the minefield they have been destroying unions through which they have had to go through fighting for their right to organize. This complaint completely exposes the facade of Starbucks as a “progressive company” and reveals the truth about Howard Schultz’s anti-union war. .”

Starbucks did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Schultz, now in his third term as CEO of Starbucks, has been a vocal and vocal opponent of unionization in the past. The company recently announced investments in payroll and employee training, but said these benefits could not be automatically transferred to store unions without separate negotiations.

“The union contract doesn’t even come close to what Starbucks is offering,” Schultz told analysts on a company conference call Tuesday.

The barista union received more attention Thursday when the White House hosted executives from campaigners at Starbucks and other companies like Amazon. Starbucks wrote to the White House asking for its own meeting, calling the development “deeply disturbing” as the company says most of its partners oppose union membership.

Starbucks Workers United has filed over 100 allegations of unfair labor practices against Starbucks, and in return, the company has filed two lawsuits against the union. Starbucks Workers United also scored a recent win as NLRB officials filed a federal court petition to force the company to bring back activist employees who say they were fired because of a union campaign.

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