In December of last year, two Buffalo, New York area Starbucks made history by becoming the first company-owned location in the United States to unionize. (Though unions in the coffee industry are far from new.) Under the banner of Starbucks Workers United, the Upstate New York labor group kicked off a wave of nearly 300 similar efforts across the United States, with 29 successful and 247 still pending as of press time.
But even with the vote of yes at the Buffalo location ratified, the union fight is far from over, with the National Labor Relations Board filing a complaint against Starbucks alleging over 200 violations of the National Labor Relations Act.
As reported by CNBC, the sweeping complaint contains 29 charges of unfair labor practices, including over 200 violations listed that are said to have taken place over the course of months. In the complaint, allegations against Starbucks include “interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees seeking to unionize in various ways” as well as “[threatening] and [intimidating] workers by closing down stores in the area, [reducing] workers’ compensation, [enforcing] policies against union supporters in a discriminatory way, [engaging] in surveillance and fired workers,” and other violations.
The complaint goes on to call visits made by Starbucks executives—including CEO Howard Schultz, whose anti-union stance is well-documented—to the Buffalo stores attempting to unionize “unprecedented and repeated,” also referring to the visits as “mandatory anti-union meetings.”
“Starbucks has been saying that no union-busting ever occurred in Buffalo. Today, the NLRB sets the record straight. The complaint confirms the extent and depravity of Starbucks’ conduct in Western New York for the better part of a year,” Starbucks Workers United said in a statement. “Starbucks will be held accountable for the union-busting minefield they forced workers to walk through in fighting for their right to organize. This Complaint fully unmasks Starbucks’ facade as a ‘progressive company’ and exposes the truth of Howard Schultz’s anti-union war.”
CNBC goes on to note that Starbucks has announced new “pay and training investments in workers” that won’t be automatically offered to unionized stores “without separate bargaining discussions.” Per CNBC, Schultz stated on an earnings conference call that “the union contract will not even come close to what Starbucks offers.”
A spokesperson for Starbucks has stated that the company “does not agree that the claims have merit” and that they “believe the allegations contained in the complaint are false, and we look forward to presenting our evidence when the allegations are adjudicated.” Starbucks will have an opportunity to officially respond to the allegations but has not done so as of press time.
This story is developing…
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Zac Cadwalader is the managing editor at Sprudge Media Network and a staff writer based in Dallas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.