A regional director of the National Labor Relations Board filed a sweeping complaint Friday alleging that Starbucks violated federal law more than 200 times in its campaign to prevent employees in Buffalo, New York from forming a union.
The complaint accuses Starbucks of trampling on the National Labor Relations Act by singling out union organizers for discipline, surveillance, and termination; shuttering entire stores in the Buffalo area amid the union push; and threatening workers with inferior benefits if they voted to unionize. HuffPost published the NLRB complaint in full.
“Starbucks has been saying that no union-busting ever occurred in Buffalo. Today, the NLRB sets the record straight,” said Starbucks Workers United, which led the Buffalo unionization campaign that has since swept the nation. “The complaint confirms the extent and depravity of Starbucks’ conduct in Western New York for the better part of a year.”
“Starbucks will be held accountable for the union-busting minefield they forced workers to walk through in fighting for their right to organize,” the group continued. “This complaint fully unmasks Starbucks’ facade as a ‘progressive company’ and exposes the truth of Howard Schultz’s anti-union war.”
As expected, Starbucks denied violating federal law and rejected the NLRB’s allegations of anti-union activity as “categorically false,” even as CEO Howard Schultz publicly lashes out at union organizers and threatens to exclude unionized workers from new benefits and pay raises.
Since workers at a pair of stores in Buffalo voted in December to form the first Starbucks unions in the U.S., more than 50 locations across the country have won elections to unionize, boasting a remarkable 85% win rate even in the face of relentless opposition from the company’s management and its notorious anti-union law firm, Littler Mendelson.
More than 250 additional Starbucks locations have filed for union elections with the NLRB in recent months as management continues and intensifies its union-busting efforts, slashing workers’ hours nationwide and retaliating against organizers.
In its complaint on Friday, the labor board said that Starbucks “has been creating an impression among its employees that their union activities [in Buffalo] were under surveillance by… having high-ranking officials… make unprecedented and repeated visits to each store.”
Starbucks, the complaint concluded, “has been interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Section 7 of the [National Labor Relations Act] in violation of Section 8(a)(1) of the Act.”
The NLRB said Starbucks should be forced to take a number of actions to remedy the harm done by its unlawful union activity, including reinstating and compensating seven fired employees.
The board also said that Schultz and Rossann Williams — Starbucks’ executive vice president — should be required to make and widely distribute a video recording reminding workers of their organizing rights under the National Labor Relations Act.
Starbucks is expected to challenge the NLRB’s charges and corrective-action recommendations, potentially sparking a prolonged legal battle.
“Starbucks is finally being held accountable for the union-busting rampage they went on,” Danny Rojas, a fired shift supervisor at the Sheridan & Bailey Starbucks store in the Buffalo area, said in a statement Friday. “It is disappointing that Starbucks has refused to work with their partners and instead chose to fire union leaders like myself.”
“The NLRB is validating that the psychological warfare and intimidation tactics that took place in Starbucks stores was unacceptable,” Rojas added. “Starbucks needs to understand that it is morally corrupt to retaliate against union leaders, and I am looking forward to the NLRB forcing Starbucks to make this moment right.”
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