Starbucks faces sweeping government complaint over union busting campaign

The U.S. government’s Labor Board has filed a sweeping lawsuit against Starbucks management for dozens of alleged violations of federal labor laws, including the firing of workers trying to unionize and the closing of stores in retaliation for supporting the campaign. union.

A sweeping complaint filed by a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board in Buffalo, New York, on May 6 follows a massive labor effort among Starbucks workers at the coffee giant’s stores across the United States. , which met with significant opposition from the company’s management.

More than 200 stores have filed a petition for union elections, and pro-union workers at at least 50 stores have won elections to unionize their workplaces, including flagship stores in New York and hometown Seattle. of the company.

The 45-page complaint encompassing stores in the Buffalo area — where the campaign began — alleges a series of violations among Starbucks management in retaliation for workers’ union support, including firing six workers, promising to benefits to workers who oppose the union, monitoring conversations and questioning workers about the union, inconsistent enforcement of store policies, and total store closures, among other allegations.

The complaint is the result of dozens of unfair labor practice allegations filed by union organizers since November 2021, which the NLRB now recognizes as “valid and correct”, according to Starbucks Workers United attorney Ian Hayes.

It’s “a vindication for everyone who works for Starbucks and everyone who watched this campaign,” he said during a Friday press briefing.

A Starbucks spokesperson said The Independent that he believes the allegations to be false.

“This is good news, but we’ve had to endure so much to get here, especially partners like me who have been laid off,” said Cassie Fleischer, of the laid off Buffalo-area Starbucks workers. during the union campaign. “I’m so thrilled to hear the NLRB is on our side and I’m confident I’ll get my job back. [through] this process.”

The complaint – among the largest ever filed in the region – names hundreds of Starbucks officials who were sent by the company during the labor campaign.

Starbucks must reinstate and pay laid-off workers, reopen closed stores, conduct mandatory worker rights training and notify all Starbucks workers that the company violated the law, according to the complaint’s redress claims.

CEO Howard Schultz and Executive Vice President Rossann Williams must also record themselves reading the notice and distribute the recording to all Starbucks workers, the complaint states.

“It tears at the progressive image of this company,” said labor organizer Richard Bensinger. “They are being exposed as a… brutal, lawless corporation that seems to care fanatically about breaking a union.”

Starbucks workers have submitted candidacies for union elections at dozens of stores across the United States. At least 50 stores voted to unionize.

(AFP via Getty Images)

A statement from Starbucks to The Independent says the complaint “involves important issues”.

“However, Starbucks disagrees that the claims have merit, and the issuance of the complaint does not constitute a finding of the NLRB,” according to a spokesperson. “This is the start of a legal process that allows both parties to be heard and to present evidence. We believe that the allegations in the complaint are false and we look forward to presenting our evidence when the allegations go to trial.

Mr. Schultz, who recently replaced Kevin Johnson after spending 13 years at the helm of the company, told the company town hall on April 4 that “we cannot ignore what is happening in the country in when it comes to businesses across the country being assaulted in so many ways.” by the threat of unionization.

In a recent call with managers, Mr. Schultz also sentenced an “outside force desperately trying to disrupt our business”.

After union workers and organizers from Amazon and Starbucks joined a meeting at the White House with Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh on May 5, Starbucks executive AJ Jones II said wrote to White House adviser Steve Ricchetti to express the company’s disappointment with the meeting.

“We believe this lack of representation understates the reality that the majority of our partners oppose union membership and the organizing tactics deployed by Workers United,” Jones wrote.

A court date has been set for July 22.

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