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Starbucks to appeal ruling on labor practices

NEW YORK A New York administrative law judge Friday found that Starbucks engaged in unfair labor practices related to union organization efforts at several stores here.

Starbucks officials said they plan to appeal the ruling by Judge Mindy Landow, who found that the Seattle-based coffeehouse giant unfairly imposed work rules, interrogated employees and disciplined or fired workers who supported efforts by the Industrial Workers of the World, or IWW, to organize employees at several Manhattan locations.

Landow ordered Starbucks to give three former employees their jobs back within 14 days, as well as compensation for lost earnings. Disciplinary actions issued to other workers were to be removed from their files, and the company was ordered to cease and desist from prohibiting certain union activity.

Starbucks, however, argued that the employees were disciplined or fired because they violated policies or threatened managers.

“We are particularly disappointed that this decision did not take into consideration personal threats lodged toward our managers,” said Tara Darrow, Starbucks spokeswoman. “The most serious charges involved disrespectful and intimidating behavior by some former partners toward other partners. In one instance, a manager was followed home by a mob that swore at him and made threatening comments.”

Darrow added that officials “strongly believe the discipline at issue was imposed appropriately and for lawful reasons."

“We are proud of our long history of communicating directly with our partners and believe that at the end of this process, our policies and approach will be deemed fair and consistent,” Darrow said.

The case stems from complaints initially filed in 2006 by the IWW alleging unfair labor practices related to a union-organizing campaign that began in 2004.

Some of the charges were dropped after a settlement with Starbucks in 2006, but the union later filed new charges saying the company unfairly prohibited employees from posting union-related items on bulletin boards, forbade the wearing of more than one pro-union button at a time, and wouldn’t allow workers to talk about the union while off duty.

Landow, however, dismissed some allegations involving Starbucks’ dress code.

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