Starbucks says Labor board is helping pro-union workers elsewhere in Seattle

Eight months into the biggest unionization push in company history, Starbucks says the federal agency for managing union elections is unfairly helping workers unionize.

Starbucks said Monday that National Labor Relations Board officials assisted pro-union activists in an election in the Kansas City area, saying similar misconduct had occurred in Seattle and Buffalo, New York. Company requests agency to postpone all mail-ballot elections in the US

The Seattle-based coffee giant claims Labor Board officials arranged voting in person at NLRB offices during mail-in elections, gave Workers United Union confidential information about vote counts, and cooperated with the union. Helped to increase votes.

Relations between Starbucks and the budding union movement have become increasingly tense since December, when workers in Buffalo became the first to unionize at a corporate-owned Starbucks store in decades. Howard Schultz, now serving his third term as the company’s CEO, has long told Starbucks employees not to require union representation and recently told a New York Times interviewer that the company does not. believes that “a third party must lead our people.”

Starbucks employees in the Puget Sound area have gone on a one-day strike to protest the company’s treatment of employees. Some of Starbucks’ most prominent stores in Seattle, including several stores in Madison Park and Capitol Hill, have unionized in recent months, while others, such as stores on First Avenue and Pike Street, are in the process of doing so. The NLRB is holding a hearing to determine whether that downtown store will still be able to unionize.

The NLRB is an independent federal board that adjudicates labor disputes across the country. It investigates unfair labor practice complaints and certifies union elections. The five-member board, which was unable to form a quorum during most of former President Barack Obama’s time in office, was hailed by pro-union activists and cast as anti-trade by some labor opponents since President Joe Biden became chairman. . The Board, General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo, took office in July 2021.

In an email, NLRB Press Secretary Kayla Bladow said that the NLRB does not comment on open matters. However, Bladow said any objections to the NLRB’s decisions need to be formally presented through “established channels”.

“The agency has well-established procedures for taking up challenges with respect to dealing with both election cases and unfair labor practice cases,” Bladow said. “Those challenges should be raised in specific filings for particular cases.”

Starbucks said in a letter addressed to the NLRB President and General Counsel that a whistleblower from the NLRB reported the misconduct to the company.

“If the NLRB does not respond by investigating and remediating such actions, we do not see how the Board can represent itself as an impartial agency in unfair labor practice disputes – and elections – in a fair, honest and fair manner. could be possible,” Starbucks attorneys said in the letter.

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 Starbucks’ latest attempt to manipulate the legal process for its own means and prevent workers from exercising their fundamental right to organize,” the group said in a statement to the Associated Press.

The way the NLRB handles cases and makes decisions depends largely on who is in the White House, as the president chooses the leadership of the board, says Jerome Rubin, an attorney with Williams Kastner’s Seattle office. Said, who earlier served as the Chief Trial Counsel for NLRB. While the Trump administration’s appointments may have favored employers, Rubin said, the Biden administration may be viewed as more union- and employee-friendly.

Still, the NLRB will always try to act neutral, said Rubin, who served on the board for more than five years. Starbucks reserves the right to raise concerns that may be investigated and decided upon.

As the NLRB’s responsibilities include ensuring that employees can choose to unionize, “complaints that the NLRB is ‘helping workers organize’ make no sense,” said Elizabeth Ford, of the Seattle University School of Education. A distinguished businessman in residence in Law. ,

“Sometimes employers get confused about this, thinking that the job of a board is to facilitate a competition between employer and union as to whether there should be a union,” Ford said. “Not so at all; the job of the board is to allow employees to choose for themselves.”

At the same time, she said, agency officials cannot interfere with employees’ choices by offering non-public information.

As of last week, the NLRB is acting on 286 unfair labor practice complaints related to Starbucks stores in 28 states — 284 against Starbucks and two against Workers United, which represents individual store unions. Nine complaints were filed in Kansas City, where the company claims officers acted improperly. Two were in Seattle.

According to the NLRB report, about 200 Starbucks stores have been unionised. And last month, a union representing two closed Seattle stores reached an agreement with the company, the first time since unionization efforts began. Among other assurances, Starbucks agreed to provide reassigned union employees to new stores with equal hours.

The company announced last month that it would appeal union votes certified by the NLRB at Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Capitol Hill, saying the election method excluded a third of workers there.

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