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Starbucks Asks Labor Board to Stop Ongoing Union Election in Mesa, Arizona

The company is asking the labor board to overturn a decision to conduct the election on a store-by-store basis.

A Starbucks drive-through sign is pictured on January 18, 2022, in Cardiff, Wales.

Starbucks is seeking to stop or pause an ongoing unionization vote at a store in Mesa, Arizona, in order to overturn a regional labor officials’ ruling that the election would be conducted on a store-by-store basis, rather than region-wide.

On Monday, the company filed an appeal with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to overturn an earlier ruling, hoping to incorporate workers in other parts of the region that haven’t necessarily been involved in unionization activities in the union vote, Bloomberg reported. Starbucks has requested that the election be stopped or that the ballots be impounded while the NLRB considers the appeal.

Earlier this month, the company requested that the union vote be region-wide in order to dilute the votes, but an NLRB regional official ruled that only the Power and Baseline store in Mesa be included. Ballots have already been sent out and are due next week.

“Trying to prevent our votes from being counted is so undemocratic,” Michelle Hejduk, an Arizona employee, told Bloomberg in a statement from Workers United. “But the partners will win.”

This is the second time that Starbucks has filed a request to interrupt a unionization vote. In November, the company filed a last-minute request to delay the mailing of ballots to Buffalo workers. The company’s request was the same: Starbucks wanted the NLRB to include all 20 Starbucks locations in western New York in the election instead of the three organizing stores.

The NLRB ultimately rejected the request, and the vote went on at the three stores as planned. That election resulted in two unionized stores in Buffalo, the Elmwood and Genesee Street locations. The union, Starbucks Workers United, has disputed the results of the election from the third location at Camp Road.

It’s unclear why Starbucks is filing such similar requests over and over. But it is an indication that the company may be intimidated by the organizing workers in Mesa; Monday’s filing may be a last-ditch effort to stop the unionization.

As More Perfect Union reported, Arizona workers say that the company is flooding the stores with managers who are surveilling workers and trying to find reasons to fire organizing employees. According to Starbucks Workers United, the company has already fired one employee, Brittany Harrison, after she spoke out about union-busting practices like holding mandatory anti-union meetings for unionizing workers.

The company has disputed that Harrison was fired. Retaliating against workers for participating in union activities is illegal, and companies like Amazon have faced discipline from the NLRB for taking such actions.

Even if the company is successful in interrupting the Arizona vote, Starbucks workers are now filing for union elections at a rate that may be difficult for the company to combat individually. As of Tuesday, over 30 stores have filed to unionize, with new election petitions being filed nearly every day this month.

The latest to file are two stores in Seattle, where the company is headquartered. Seattle workers have noted that they face poor working conditions even with preferential treatment from corporate.

Sarah Pappin, a shift supervisor at one of the unionizing Seattle stores, told Vice that Seattle workers have the same complaints as other Starbucks employees across the country: stores are often understaffed, workers don’t make a fair wage and the company has ignored COVID concerns.

“We see the best side of the company because we have such visibility to corporate. [Former CEO] Howard Schultz is a regular at some of our stores,” Pappin said. “We get the best experience of anyone in the country. But we’re still saying this is not enough for us to be successful.”

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