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Starbucks Must Bargain With Hometown Union After Breaking Law, Labor Board Rules

The company has openly admitted to refusing to bargain with the store, the labor board found.

Starbucks then-Executive Chairman Howard Schultz speaks during the Starbucks Annual Shareholders Meeting at McCaw Hall, on March 21, 2018, in Seattle, Washington.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled on Wednesday that Starbucks must negotiate with a union formed at an upscale Seattle location after officials determined that the company broke federal labor laws by refusing to bargain — an action the company has admitted to.

Though the Starbucks roastery, located in the company’s hometown, voted to unionize in April, the company has refused to bargain with the location for months, constituting an “unlawful failure and refusal” to recognize and negotiate with the union, labor officials wrote in their decision.

Starbucks has admitted that it refuses to bargain with the store, contending that the results of the mail-in union vote are invalid — a claim in which labor officials found no merit, the NLRB wrote.

The company plans to appeal the ruling, and is still challenging the certification of the Seattle election. So far, coming up on the first anniversary of the first store’s unionization in Buffalo, none of the over 250 certified Starbucks unions have been able to bargain a first contract with the company. At the few stores that have had their first bargaining sessions with the company, executives have stonewalled workers, walking out of contract negotiations sometimes before hearing a single demand from the union.

“Starbucks is continuing its aggressive anti-union campaign against workers by delaying, confusing, and flat-out refusing to bargain with them,” Starbucks Workers United said in a statement, per Bloomberg.

The order is just one of the legal challenges Starbucks has faced from the NLRB this week. On Wednesday, an NLRB regional director petitioned in court for injunctive relief, requesting that the company reinstate a Long Island, New York, employee who labor officials say was illegally fired, and reimburse her for lost wages.

The employee, Joselyn Chuquillanqui, was the lead organizer for the union at the store in Great Neck, and had faced threats and disciplinary actions as a result of her role in the union, the petition says. The petition lists a variety of alleged union-busting actions taken by management at the store, including interrogating employees about their involvement in the union and threatening them with the loss of benefits if they joined the union.

The workers ultimately voted against the union in May after facing the aggressive union-busting campaign from management.

“We are asking the Court to order Starbucks to immediately cease its unlawful conduct, such as discharging and disciplining employees, threatening employees with loss of benefits and opportunities, and selectively and discriminatorily enforcing its rules, as well as to provide interim reinstatement to a discharged employee,” Brooklyn Regional Director Teresa Poor said in a statement.

“This relief is critical to ensure that Starbucks employees in Great Neck, NY and throughout the nation can effectively exercise the rights guaranteed to them under federal law to engage in union activities and other collective action to improve their working conditions,” Poor continued.

This is the fifth injunction that the NLRB has sought against Starbucks. Last month, labor officials filed a petition requesting a “nationwide cease and desist” order against the company to block them from continuing to fire pro-union workers. According to the union, the company has fired 150 pro-union workers in its union-busting campaign so far.

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