Starbucks Ups Its Offensive Against NLRB, Accuses It of Collusion

Anuradha Garg - Author
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Aug. 18 2022, Published 8:33 a.m. ET

The issue related to the coffee chain Starbucks and the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) seems to be escalating fast. What are Starbucks’ NLRB complaints?

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On Aug. 15, Starbucks filed a 16-page letter to NLRB officials, in which it raised questions about the fairness of the Biden labor agency. Starbucks' accusations against the NLRB come in relation to the organizing drive of its workers at more than 220 of its locations electing Starbucks Workers United as their bargaining representative since December. The union has won about 80 percent of the elections.

Is Starbucks trying to bust unionizing activities?

The company has been strongly opposing unionization with its CEO Howard Schultz making anti-union comments. In May, the company instituted a pay raise for all non-unionized workers. Starbucks’ moves are being seen as trying to engage in strong union-busting activities. However, Schultz said that Starbucks can't implement the broad benefits at unionized locations or those in the process of unionization because of legal restraints.

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starbucks workers united
Source: Starbucks Workers United Twitter

The NLRB has brought about 20 unfair labor practice complaints against Starbucks related to the unionization drive. It has even gone to court to stop the company from engaging in such moves.

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Starbucks has upped its offensive against the NLRB.

The direct attack on the NLRB is seen as the global coffee chain taking its union-busting tactics one step further. The company has accused the NLRB of colluding with a union organizing its workers to manipulate elections. The letter by Starbucks also asks for a suspension of mail-ballot elections until the agency investigates the company’s claims and reports the results to the public. The company’s complaint is supported by evidence from an unidentified NLRB career employee.

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Starbucks alleges collusion and partiality on the NLRB’s part.

Starbucks also alleges that NLRB employees gave the Workers United-SEIU union agents confidential, non-public, real-time information regarding specific vote counts received, which enabled the union to target and influence employees who haven't voted yet.

Another complaint filed by Starbucks is regarding the NLRB providing duplicate or triplicate ballots to the union or individual voters instead of mailing ballots. Starbucks alleges that the agency even made “secret arrangements with Union representatives for particular voters to vote “in-person” in NLRB offices, with no party observers present.”

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The complaint also says that NLRB employees went to great lengths to conceal favors from the union. Four NLRB employees attended the ballot counting, which Starbucks and union representatives were obliged to witness via Zoom. As ballots materialized “without postmarks,” an NLRB employee falsely asserted that “Board protocol” allowed some workers to vote in person at the agency’s office.

Due to the alleged collusion of the agency and misconduct on their part, Starbucks is challenging the union’s election victory. It has also asked the NLRB to suspend other mail-ballot elections until an investigation is done. If true, Starbucks’ allegations could seriously undermine the agency’s credibility.

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