Starbucks Workers United Announces Filing of 47 New Federal Unfair Labor Practice Charges Against Starbucks

Firings, Withholding of Benefits, Other Retaliation Among the Charges Following the Coffee Giant’s December ‘Sincere’ Pledge to Do Better

Feb 7, 2024 - 12:43
Feb 7, 2024 - 12:44

On December 8, Starbucks posted a letter to its website proclaiming to be “sincere” in its desire to turn the table on its scorched earth campaign against the nearly 10,000 workers who have waged a historic effort to organize almost 400 stores over the last two-plus years.

But despite the pledge, the company’s lawbreaking has continued, and on Tuesday, Starbucks Workers United announced it has filed 47 new federal unfair labor practice charges since December 8, including allegations of illegal firings, withholding of benefits from union workers and failing and refusing to bargain a contract.

Many of the 47 new charges include alleged illegal activity that is ongoing or took place after the company’s December 8 letter. Charges include:

  • The company is illegally prohibiting union workers from taking part in the North American Barista Championship. Workers receive paid time off to participate in the competition and the winner receives an all-expenses-paid trip to a Starbucks-owned estate in Costa Rica.
  • In January, the company gave raises to workers at nonunion stores, but gave smaller raises to some workers at union stores.
  • The company offered other new benefits, including faster vacation accrual, career opportunities, scheduling improvements, and access to programs to help improve credit scores, but only to workers in nonunion stores.
  • A few days after workers in Providence voted to join Starbucks Workers United, they showed up to work wearing union t-shirts and were told the shirts were not allowed. They were told to go home or turn their shirts inside out, and the store was shut down for the rest of the day.
  • Starbucks fired 17 workers for supporting the union, including five after December 8.

“Actions speak much louder than words,” said Lydia Fernandez, a barista in Philadelphia whose post-December 8 firing is the basis of one of the ULPs announced Tuesday. “If Starbucks is indeed sincere in its desire for a kinder, gentler, relationship with its workers, it needs to bargain a fair contract with the nearly 10,000 of us who have already voted to join Starbucks Workers United and it needs to let the untold thousands more who wish to join together with us the right to organize free of intimidation and retaliation.”

Other charges announced Tuesday include a wide range of allegations against the company, from punishing workers for wearing union pins on their uniforms, to retaliating against workers who support the union by unfairly disciplining them; to threatening to call the police and calling the police on employees engaged in protected activity; to refusing to provide them with disability accommodations; and threatening a worker who refused to disclose the identities of other employees who have raised concerns about the workplace with “disciplinary consequences and physical intimidation.”

Despite their statements on Dec. 8, Starbucks has systematically refused to recognize the union that their workers have voted for in 394 stores across the country. Numerous charges cite Starbucks’ ongoing failure to engage with the union as required by law once workers have voted to join the union. In just one example, workers at a store in Manchester, Conn. demanded recognition on Nov. 29, 2023. Forty-two days later (Jan. 10, 2024), they filed a charge against Starbucks for failure and refusal to recognize the union and failure and refusal to bargain.

Since Starbucks workers first started organizing more than two years ago, the National Labor Relations Board has issued over 120 complaints against Starbucks for its union busting tactics. To date, NLRB administrative law judges have issued 48 decisions, 46 of which found that the company has committed 375 violations of federal labor law. Another 70 complaints are awaiting hearings or decisions by NLRB administrative law judges.

One NLRB judge referred to the company's labor law violations as "egregious" and "unprecedented," finding 96 labor law violations that occurred in the Buffalo area alone, shortly after the organizing drive began, and recommending an award of nationwide remedies. Another judge determined that the company unlawfully withheld wages and benefits from unionized employees and recommended that the company be ordered to extend those benefits retroactively to unionized employees. Other NLRB judges issued decisions finding that the company illegally monitored and fired organizers, calling the police on workers, and outright closing dozens of stores that have attempted to organize.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has described Starbucks’s anti-union campaign as “the most aggressive and illegal union-busting campaign in the modern history of our country.”