Starbucks asks Labor Board to temporarily halt union votes

Starbucks on Monday asked the National Labor Relations Board to temporarily suspend all union elections at its U.S. stores, citing allegations by a board employee that regional NLRB officials improperly coordinated with union organizers. did.

In a letter to the board’s chairman and other executives, Starbucks said that an unidentified carrier NLRB employee informed the company of activity, which occurred in the spring at the board’s St. Louis office, when he was visiting a Starbucks in Overland. The union in the store was overseeing the election. Park, Kansas.

The store is one of 314 US Starbucks locations where workers have petitioned the NLRB to hold union elections since late last year. More than 220 of those shops have voted to form the union. The company opposes the attempt at unionization.

The Seattle coffee giant alleges that St. Louis Labor Board officials made special arrangements for pro-union workers to vote in person at their office when they did not receive mail-in ballots, even though Starbucks and The union had agreed that store elections would take place. Controlled by postal ballot.

In its letter, Starbucks referred to a memo sent by the regional office confirming that workers were allowed to come to the office and vote in person after the union told the regional office that some workers were getting ballots in the mail. were not received. According to Starbucks, the memo cited “board protocol” that workers voted alone in an empty office.

“Because observers were not present, one cannot be sure who came to vote, whether NLRB personnel had inappropriate communication with voters, told them how to vote, how to vote or other Unknown conduct involved,” Starbucks wrote in its letter.

Starbucks said regional board officials also disclosed confidential information to the union, including when workers’ ballots had arrived in the mail for counting.

Starbucks Workers United, a group seeking to unionize US Starbucks stores, accused the company of “trying to divert attention from its unprecedented anti-union campaign, which fired more than 75 union leaders nationwide, as well as Also an attempt was made to stop all union elections.”

“Ultimately, this is the latest attempt by Starbucks on its own means to manipulate the legal process and prevent workers from exercising their fundamental right to organize,” the group said in a statement.

An NLRB spokesperson said on Monday that the agency does not comment on open cases.

Press Secretary Kayla Bladow said the NLRB would “carefully and fairly” consider any challenges raised by Starbucks through “established channels”. Bladow said Starbucks may also seek an early review of the matter.

Overland Park store activists petitioned the NLRB to vote in February. In April, workers voted 6-1 to unionize, but seven additional ballots were subject to either Starbucks or union challenges.

These demands were to be heard on Tuesday. Starbucks asked to delay that hearing, but as of Monday afternoon, the board had not adjourned it.

Risa L., professor of labor law and academic director of the Worker Institute at Cornell University. Lieberwitz said Starbucks’ push to delay the hearing was curious. Lieberwitz said the hearing is the ideal place for Starbucks to present evidence about the Overland Park election and ask the board to investigate.

“It certainly appears to be a tactic to divert attention from Starbucks’ own conduct and to try to make negative connotations or accusations against the board,” Lieberwitz said.

In its letter, Starbucks said the evidence in this case indicates misconduct in other areas as well. The company wants the NLRB to investigate other Starbucks union elections and make public a report on its findings. The company said the board should also implement security measures to prevent regional authorities from coordinating with one party or another.

Starbucks also asked the NLRB to issue an order requiring all elections to be conducted in person with observers on both sides.

Starbucks has long opposed unionisation, dating back to the company’s acquisition of CEO Howard Schultz in the late 1980s. The current federalization effort is replete with accusations and lawsuits from both sides.

According to the Labor Board, Starbucks Workers United have filed 284 unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB against Starbucks or one of its operators. Starbucks has filed two charges against Workers United.

Earlier this month, the Labor Board dismissed One of the allegations was filed by Starbucks, saying the company failed to prove that pro-union activists blocked the store’s entrance or threatened customers during a spring rally.

In June, the NLRB asked a federal court To order Starbucks to stop interfering with unionization efforts at its US stores in western New York.

The NLRB’s action against Starbucks has not always been successful. In June, a federal judge in Phoenix ruled that Starbucks was not to rehire three workers who claimed the company retaliated against them for holding a union.

Unionization efforts at Starbucks, Amazon, Trader Joe’s and elsewhere are gaining steam under President Joe Biden, who has vowed to be the “most pro-union president” in American history.

But former NLRB chairman Bill Gould, who now teaches at Stanford Law School, said the NLRB decisions issued under Biden are not much different from those issued under Republican presidents.

“Starbucks doesn’t like the message that workers are giving them pretty evenly across the country,” Gould said. “So they’re trying to eliminate the messenger.”

Starbucks isn’t the only big company facing a federalization effort that has attacked the voting process.

Amazon also made allegations of unfair conduct against the NLRB’s regional office in Brooklyn in an attempt to redo a historic labor victory at a warehouse on Staten Island, New York. Among other allegations, Amazon said the agency tainted the voting process by demanding the reinstatement of a fired Amazon worker in the weeks leading up to the March election.

The agency’s lawyers have pushed back. A regional director for the NLRB office in Phoenix is ​​expected to issue a ruling on that matter in the coming weeks.


Associated Press Business Writer Hallelujah Hadero in New York contributed to this report.

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