Starbucks broke the law by firing and threatening pro-union workers, colleges job board

Starbucks has committed a host of labor law violations by firing six pro-union workers, disciplining and monitoring others, closing stores and changing labor policies in the course of its battle with a regulatory crackdown, according to a complaint filed by labor officials Friday.

A regional director for the National Labor Relations Board has brought charges against the Seattle-based coffee chain, after finding merit in allegations made by the United Labor Union. The consortium has managed to organize more than 50 Starbucks stores since last year despite the company’s fierce counter-campaign.

The complaint filed Friday was unusually widespread, alleging a pattern of intimidation and retaliation at several stores in New York. It also implicated CEO Howard Schultz, claiming he broke the law last November by promising to “raise benefits” if they did not unionize.

Regional Director, Linda Leslie, requested that Schultz or CEO Rosanne Williams read a notice to workers explaining their rights, or be present with board agents who read such a notice. Linda said a video should be recorded so it can be distributed to all stores.

The complaint says Starbucks closed stores with intent to intimidate union-seeking workers, punish workers who supported organizing efforts, deployed managers to monitor union sympathizers and granted benefits to trying to turn workers against the union.

Board officials file such a complaint after they investigate the union’s allegations and find them credible.

The union campaign, known as the Starbucks Workers Union, said the complaint “fully exposes Starbucks’ facade” as a “progressive company.”

“Starbucks says there has never been a union breach in Buffalo. Today, the NLRB puts things right,” the campaign said in a statement on Friday. “The complaint underscores the extent and corruption of Starbucks’ behavior in western New York for the better part of the year. The union-busting minefield into which they forced workers to walk to fight for their right to organize.”

A Starbucks spokesperson said in an email that the company does not believe the allegations are justified, describing the complaint as “the beginning of a litigation process that allows both sides to be heard.”

“We believe the allegations in the complaint are false, and we look forward to providing our evidence when the allegations are adjudicated,” the spokesperson said.

Many of the alleged actions occurred at Starbucks stores in the Buffalo area, where the organized campaign began in 2021. The effort has since spread across the country, with more than 200 stores petitioning for union elections.

In the complaint, Leslie said Starbucks should provide managers with training on workers’ rights, and give the union “equal time” to present its case to workers if the company holds anti-union meetings. She also said that the dismissed workers should be offered to put them back in their jobs and pay their wages.

Without a settlement between the board and Starbucks, the case could go to trial, with witnesses on both sides testifying.

The charges are part of a broader legal battle between Starbucks and the Workers United, in which the campaign accuses the company of retaliating against regulators. The union urged board officials to pursue cases against Starbucks, arguing that the company’s actions would have a chilling effect on workers who would otherwise assert their rights.

Labor Council officials previously found advantage in some of the union’s claims. A different regional manager recently filed charges against Starbucks for terminating a group of Tennessee workers known as the Memphis Sevens.

In another case, the General Counsel of the Labor Council went to federal court to request a temporary injunction to reinstate three Starbucks workers. The attorney general accused Starbucks of targeting workers for their union support.

This story has been updated with comments from Starbucks.

Read the full complaint below:

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