Starbucks Union Files Complaint Saying Company Is Cutting Hours to Union Bust

The union representing Starbucks workers across the country has filed a complaint with the federal labor board, saying that the company has been cutting hours for employees in order to interfere with workers’ union campaigns.

In the unfair labor practice charge, Starbucks Workers United says that in cutting hours, the company is financially punishing organizers or pro-union workers and interfering with organizing efforts. The union also claims that the cuts “seek to coerce employees into not starting or supporting workplace organizing campaigns,” according to a press release.

Under federal labor laws, retaliating against workers for union organizing is illegal, but the punishments for doing so are incredibly weak. The union is calling for an immediate nationwide injunction to force the company to stop cutting hours.

According to a survey of the union’s members, workers have had between two and 15 hours cut from their weekly schedules, which impacts workers’ finances and can render them ineligible for benefits like health care and tuition coverage. Reductions have been taking place in at least 20 states, the complaint says.

In order for workers to be eligible for the company’s health insurance program, they have to work 20 hours a week on average. The company has touted its health insurance benefits in anti-union efforts, but may be rendering employees ineligible to use them.

“Partners pretty much across the board have experienced a cut in their hours. Full-time partners have watched their schedules drop from 30 to 35 hours to 22 to 25, and some part-time partners are only seeing one shift a week compared to their usual three or four,” Maddie VanHook, a barista at a store in Cleveland, Ohio, said in a statement. “Despite the claims that the company is ‘overspending’ on labor, we’re still seeing managers hiring people in and we’re seeing increases in business.”

Indeed, the company appears to have cash to spare when it comes to spending what likely amounts to millions of dollars on top union-busting lawyers. Meanwhile, the company is making record profits and, in the fiscal year 2021, made $29.1 billion in consolidated net revenues. That is an increase of 24 percent over the previous year an increase that was largely driven by in-store sales, the company said in a financial report.

Workers, who have filed to unionize at over 130 stores so far, have said that current hour cuts are unlike any they’ve ever seen in their years working at Starbucks. One Phoenix worker, Sofia Delgado, told More Perfect Union that her hours were slashed from up to 21 hours a week to 5.5 hours, even though her availability was wide open nearly all week. Delgado ultimately had to quit in order to find a job that offered more hours.

“In the eight years I’ve worked for Starbucks I’ve never seen the company slash hours this severely or this widely,” said Seattle shift supervisor Sarah Pappin.

“My husband and I have been saving up to start our family. I have no idea how that’s going to happen now when my hours have been reduced by 32 percent,” Pappin continued. “Many of us are scrambling to find second jobs to make ends meet, but we’re scared that reducing our availability will cause them to cut our hours even more, or even fire us like they have done in Buffalo.”

Earlier this month, the union filed 20 charges against the company, with federal labor officials alleging that Starbucks violated labor laws on many occasions, including when it fired Cassie Fleischer, a former Starbucks worker and union organizer in Buffalo, New York. Starbucks has also barred pro-union employees from attending mandatory anti-union meetings in which the company coerces workers into voting against unionization, Starbucks Workers United alleged.

Despite its army of anti-union lawyers, Starbucks has lost every legal battle that it has tried to wage against the union so far. In attempts to dilute elections, the company has continually tried to argue that union elections should be held region-wide, rather than within individual stores. But the National Labor Relations Board has rejected that argument, saying that store-by-store votes are appropriate for the company.