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Starbucks Union Files 20 Complaints, Alleging Company Is Illegally Union Busting

The union says that the company threatened to shut down all of its stores in Buffalo, where the union drive began.

The Starbucks logo is seen in New York on May 29, 2018.

Starbucks Workers United has filed 20 complaints with federal labor officials over the last week, alleging that the company has engaged in multiple illegal union-busting activities, Bloomberg reports.

The union claims that the company threatened to shut down all of its stores in Buffalo, New York, where the union drive began. Starbucks Workers United also says that the company has been illegally coercing employees during “effectively mandatory” anti-union meetings which Starbucks has been holding in unionizing stores across the country and that it has barred pro-union employees from attending the meetings. The complaints were filed with the Buffalo regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Other complaints say that the company illegally fired a union organizer and member of the bargaining committee, Cassie Fleischer. Fleischer had helped organize the Elmwood store in Buffalo, the first location to unionize. The company has been leveraging ongoing negotiations with Elmwood against employees who have filed to unionize, saying that workers should wait to hear the results of negotiations before they decide whether to form a union.

The union further alleges that the company has been illegally restricting employees from speaking with reporters, and that it has been enforcing dress code and other rules on pro-union workers specifically. Last month, the company fired seven union organizers in Memphis, Tennessee, claiming that the organizers broke rules that workers said didn’t exist or had never been enforced before.

The union has already filed an unfair labor practice claim over those terminations, saying that it was a clear and brash violation of labor laws that prohibit retaliation against workers for organizing a union. The terminations caught the attention of lawmakers, who called for the passage of the pro-union Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act.

Meanwhile, the company has denied all allegations of union busting. “We’ve been clear from the beginning: Any claims of anti-union activity are categorically false,” spokesperson Reggie Borges told Bloomberg.

Workers have filed for unionization in over 100 stores so far, with new filings coming in at a remarkably fast pace. Recent polling finds that the vast majority of Starbucks customers support workers’ union efforts.

The union secured a major win on Friday, when workers in Mesa, Arizona, officially won their union election, forming the third-ever union for the company.

“This is another historic moment for Starbucks partners and service industry workers across the country,” Michelle Hejduk, shift supervisor at the Power and Baseline store in Mesa, said in a statement. “For too long, Starbucks hasn’t lived up to their mission and values and we are holding them accountable.”

The company has come under fire from employees and customers for anti-union activities. Workers have expressed frustration that the company, which purports to be progressive, has been taking such drastic measures to union bust.

So far, the NLRB has shot down all of the company’s attempts to interfere with unionizing efforts. Last week, the labor board ruled that the company could no longer delay elections and vote counts by arguing that elections should be held region-wide, rather than store by store, setting a precedent against a common union-busting tactic.

Even if the labor board finds that Starbucks has been illegally union busting, however, regulations don’t allow for strict punishments against companies caught violating labor laws. This means that the company could be knowingly violating labor laws because they have decided that it’s worth it to quash the union effort a common strategy of union-busting companies.