Starbucks Tacks Against Union Drive

Thom Weidlich 08.18.22


Coffee-shop outfit Starbucks Corp. has faced a union drive for the past year. This week the company made a particularly bold (opponents would say bitter) move against it. The development has only heightened the ongoing war of words.

A year ago, none of the 9,000 U.S. Starbucks-owned locations was unionized, and now workers at more than 200 have voted yes, while those at nearly 50 voted against, according to Reuters.

On Monday, Seattle-based Starbucks asked the National Labor Relations Board, which enforces U.S. labor law, to probe whether the agency’s employees wrongly coordinated with Starbucks workers and the union, including helping baristas vote in person at a board office even though the election was to be done by mail. The company said it believes similar infractions occurred in other geographic areas. It asked the agency to halt all union elections until after the probe.

Alleged Misbehavior

Starbucks said it learned of the alleged misbehavior from a whistle-blower who is a long-time NLRB employee.

“If the NLRB does not respond by investigating and remedying these types of actions, we do not see how the board can represent itself as a neutral agency adjudicating unfair labor practice disputes — and elections,” Starbucks said in its letter.

In their responses, Starbucks Workers United and the Workers United union, which backs the Starbucks workers’ efforts, seem to view the latest move as more of the same only at higher volume — a tactic clearly designed to halt, or at least delay, the unionization drive. Workers United said the letter was Starbucks’ “latest attempt to manipulate the legal process for their own means and prevent workers from exercising their fundamental right to organize,” according to Reuters.

‘Voter Protections’

“Starbucks is simultaneously claiming to stand for voter protections, and then asking that all elections be suspended nationwide,” The New York Times quoted Michelle Eisen, a barista at the Elmwood location in Buffalo, New York, which was the first unionized company-owned store.

Starbucks has lodged procedural complaints before, several of which have been slapped down. It faces hundreds of charges of unfair labor practices in 28 states, according to the Times. Yet, in its letter, the company said it was motivated only by wanting an honest process.

As for the NLRB, it said it won’t comment on the situation, though a statement from its spokeswoman implies Monday’s letter from Starbucks doesn’t follow “established channels” for such objections.

Photo Credit: PRCG

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