Starbucks Loses Bid to Delay Union Election Count Again as It Cuts Worker Hours

The labor board has denied another Starbucks bid to delay union ballot counts as workers say that the company has started slashing hours without prior warning, endangering employees’ finances.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that the company’s argument that union elections should be held region-wide rather than store-by-store was invalid, meaning that ballots for three stores in Buffalo, New York, will soon be counted. In February, the NLRB formally rejected Starbucks’s argument, which the company has used in every location’s election so far, setting a precedent against its validity.

Workers have filed to unionize at over 110 locations so far, and three stores have voted to form a union. As the campaign gains momentum, however, Starbucks appears to be getting ever bolder in its union-busting efforts. On Monday, Starbucks Workers United wrote that the company is cutting hours across the board in order to disrupt workers’ lives.

“Starbucks is slashing our hours nationally for no good reason. As our union campaign has spread, so has Starbucks’ manipulation of our schedules,” the union wrote in a Twitter thread. “This underscores more than ever the need for a union, to ensure that we can have a voice in these decisions.”

Starbucks is cutting hours despite the fact that it has been reporting record profits. Its 2021 fourth quarter net revenues were up 31 percent over the previous year, while sales were up 20 percent over the entire year.

The union highlighted that workers, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck, rely on steady hours to pay for essentials and to qualify for the company’s health insurance program. To maintain health insurance, employees must work at least 520 hours per six-month period, or about 20 hours a week. Cutting hours knowing that employees rely on the job to survive is “immoral,” the union said.

“Instead of cutting our hours, we suggest Starbucks cut their relationship with their union busting law firm, Littler Mendelson,” Starbucks Workers United wrote. The union concluded its Twitter thread by asking employees to use the hashtag #WhyWeOrganize to share their experiences with union busting and other hardships caused by the company. It has also asked workers to email the union if they’ve had their hours cut.

Employees flooded the hashtag with stories, detailing how they aren’t averaging enough hours for health insurance qualification and how they have recently had their hours cut. Others shared stories of management acting callously toward workers who have faced abuse at work, unsafe working conditions or personal tragedies.

Meanwhile, the company has been firing organizing workers. Recently, Starbucks fired employee and Buffalo organizer Danny Rojas, supposedly for being late to a 5:30 am shift. In a leaked video, Rojas told their manager, “respectfully, this wouldn’t be happening if I wasn’t part of the organizing committee.”

When other employees are late or don’t follow dress code, Rojas pointed out, they are not necessarily disciplined for it. Rojas said they were late to their shift because they regularly work a closing shift at Trader Joe’s and had no time to go home and sleep before their shift at a Starbucks store 30 minutes from their home. The company previously denied Rojas’s request to transfer to a more convenient location.

Rojas is one of many pro-union employees who have been punished or terminated by the company. Workers are saying that the company is retaliating against pro-union employees by telling them that they may have to quit or be fired if they aren’t able to increase their available hours for work. The company recently fired another Buffalo organizer, Cassie Fleischer, and even lied that Fleischer quit. Unbeknownst to the company, however, Fleischer recorded her firing.

The company also recently terminated seven union organizers in Memphis, Tennessee; according to the union, the workers who were fired made up the entirety of the organizing committee at that location. The company claims that the organizers were violating company policies, but workers said that some of the policies cited for their termination didn’t exist or had never been enforced.