Starbucks Seeks to Pause Union Elections at U.S. cafes, Claims Misconduct

By | August 15, 2022
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Starbucks on Monday accused the federal labor board overseeing union elections at its U.S. cafes of misconduct and asked for elections to be suspended nationwide pending the outcome of an investigation.

The coffee chain said in a letter to National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Chairman Lauren McFerran and General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo that NLRB agents helped Workers United win elections by manipulating the voting process and collaborated to cover up the behavior, according to a copy seen by Reuters.

NLRB spokesperson Kayla Blado said in a statement the NLRB had well established processes for challenging elections.

“The regional staff – and, ultimately, the Board – will carefully and objectively consider any challenges raised through these established channels,” she said.

Workers United said the letter was Starbucks’ “latest attempt to manipulate the legal process for their own means and prevent workers from exercising their fundamental right to organize.”

A year ago, none of the nearly 9,000 corporate-owned Starbucks locations in the United States were unionized. Now, employees at 216 cafes have voted to join the union, while workers at 46 have voted against unionizing.

Starbucks Corp.’s allegations come amid a growing unionization drive among U.S. retailers, including Amazon.com Inc. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., Lululemon Athletica Inc., and grocer Trader Joe’s.

Starbucks said the misconduct, which the company says it learned from a whistleblower who is a long-time NLRB employee, took place during a union election in Kansas City, Kansas. It said it also believed it had taken place in other regions as well, including the company’s hometown of Seattle and in Buffalo in New York state, where the union drive began.

“If the NLRB does not respond by investigating and remedying these types of actions, we do not see how the Board can represent itself as a neutral agency adjudicating unfair labor practice disputes – and elections – in a manner that is fair, honest, and proper, without the appearance of impropriety,” Starbucks said in its letter.

Starbucks accused board agents of secretly coordinating with the union to arrange voting in person at NLRB offices instead of by mail ballot, providing confidential details in real time about ballots it had received, enabling the union to influence employees who had not yet voted, covering up what Starbucks termed the “misbehavior” and collaborating with Workers United to boost the number of pro-union votes.

Starbucks said in its letter that the claims were backed up by information included in emails between NLRB officials and union representatives.

The company asked that all pending and future elections at its cafes be conducted manually with in-person voting, with observers from both sides present, instead of by mail.

Topics USA Claims

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