The battle between Starbucks and the National Labor Relations Board continues over union relations. This week, the National Labor Relations Board has charged Starbucks with illegally “failing and refusing” to negotiate with 144 unionized cafes, according to a letter filed by the agency on April 26.
According to Bloomberg, which initially reported on the filing, the NLRB is accusing Starbucks of several types of labor violations including unlawful interference of the employees’ right to organize, and failing to bargain in good faith with nearly half of the now 300+ unionized cafes, or just over 3% of company-owned U.S. stores. The stores named in the complaint include the first two in Buffalo, N.Y. which kicked off the wave of unionization at the company in Dec. 2021.
It has been about a year since unionized stores have allegedly tried to bargain with their parent company, and the latest complaint is one of 80+ made by the NLRB against Starbucks, which has been accused by both the union, agency and U.S. Senators of union busting.
However, according to Starbucks, the company has been trying to bargain in good faith with Starbucks Workers United but has allegedly run into issues with the union attempting to bargain on a regional or national level instead of a store-by-store basis. The union has also repeatedly asked for hybrid meetings over Zoom, which Starbucks does not feel comfortable with – an issue that has come up multiple times and brought negotiations to a standstill in many instances:
“The complaint ignores actions by Workers United to knowingly frustrate the bargaining process by insisting on national bargaining despite our continued efforts to adhere to the NLRB’s clear single-store bargaining-unit ruling, failing to initiate bargaining at more than 60 stores they represent and consistently engaging in conduct that has unnecessarily delayed progress toward first contracts,” a Starbucks representative told Nation’s Restaurant News, stating that SBWorkers United has failed to confirm more than three-quarters of the 390 collective bargaining sessions proposed by Starbucks to date.
Starbucks said that the company has met with union representatives in four cities for four full-day bargaining sessions over the past month.
“Looking forward, we remain ready and available to bargain with Workers United in-person according to longstanding NLRB precedent, and we intend to challenge recent efforts by the NLRB and Workers United to depart from current law,” Starbucks continued.
In another violation filing by the National Labor Relations Board, the agency is again calling for the reinstatement of another employee, seeking injunctive relief from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia for a former employee at a Georgia store who was allegedly terminated for their activism in the union.
“We are asking the court to order Starbucks to immediately cease its unlawful conduct of discharging employees for their union support, as well as to provide interim reinstatement to a discharged employee,” NLRB Region 10-Atlanta Regional Director Lisa Henderson said in a statement. “This relief is critical to ensure that Starbucks employees in Augusta, Georgia 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.”
In response, Starbucks has stated that the employee in question was terminated for “clear violations of longstanding partner policies” and was fired long after his store was union-certified:
“The extraordinary request for injunctive relief and nationwide remedies proposed by the General Counsel are a broad overreach that has been appropriately rejected by district courts in previous matters,” a Starbucks representative told Nation’s Restaurant News.
These ongoing legal challenges between the union/NLRB and Starbucks are happening in the background while Starbucks has announced this week that the company is scheduling two-hour “connection” meetings with employees. Despite the ongoing tensions between baristas and their parent company, the meetings are meant as team-building and cultural events and will include activities like coffee tastings and games – no “shop talk” involved. The sessions will involve meeting with 250,000 Starbucks employees at 10,000 stores across the U.S. and Canada over the next two weeks.
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