Starbucks Kept List of Pro-Union Employees to Punish, Ex-Manager Says

At least at one point in Starbucks’s anti-union campaign, the company’s upper management maintained a list of pro-union employees that they encouraged managers to seek out and punish, newly unveiled testimony from a former Starbucks manager reveals.

David Almond, who used to manage several Starbucks stores in the Buffalo area, said in testimony under oath in August that he had been read a list of workers that the higher ups at Starbucks suspected were pro-union, and told to comb through their records to find a nonunion issue for reprimanding them.

The explosive revelation was first reported by Bloomberg, who had obtained a copy of a transcript of Almond’s testimony through a Freedom of Information Act request. The testimony was part of a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) hearing presided over by a labor board judge.

Managers would sift through the list together to find seemingly minor infractions, Almond said, such as wearing purple pants, for which to punish workers or “partners,” as the company calls them. They steered clear of issues that were union related, likely to avoid legal trouble or perhaps to deflect from an underlying goal of union busting.

At one point, a district manager asked Almond whether a particular pro-union employee had any supposed infractions.

“She said go through her files,” Almond testified, as Bloomberg reported. “She’s a long-term partner. I’m sure there’s something in there we can use against her.”

Another time, a corporate employee told Almond to follow a store employee who appeared to be pro-union and rewrite schedules so that there was always a manager present at their store. “She said, this way, the partners won’t feel comfortable talking about the union, and if they do, then you should discourage them,” said Almond.

Almond said that he resigned in January citing the company’s anti-union tactics, which he said were likely illegal.

A spokesperson for the company has said that, if Almond was told to punish pro-union employees, the company is not aware of it.

Punishing workers for union activity is illegal under federal labor laws. NLRB officials have found multiple counts of illegal union busting activity by the company in the past year, including for what officials say was illegal retaliation against union organizers in Phoenix, Arizona, and elsewhere.

Starbucks Workers United says Almond’s testimony reflects a seeming policy that Starbucks has implemented nationwide. “This is what the company has directed managers to do across the country,” the union wrote on Tuesday. “We immensely appreciate David Almond’s bravery for speaking out.”

Almond’s testimony lines up with what union organizers who have faced reprimands or have been fired by the company say about their punishments. To date, the union has filed complaints against the company over the firing of over 80 union supporters.

The company has cited spurious reasons for firing pro-union workers, they say. One Buffalo worker was fired for being late once on a day they were scheduled to open immediately following the day they had closed the store, she said. Workers in Memphis were fired for what the union says are policies that had never been previously enforced.

Recently, Buffalo union organizer Will Westlake said he was fired after refusing to stop wearing a suicide awareness pin to work, which managers sent him home over for four consecutive months. Westlake said that he wore the pin, which read “You are not alone,” to honor a coworker who had died by suicide earlier this year. Managers cited attendance and dress code when firing him.