Starbucks asks labor council to suspend vote-by-mail union elections, alleging misconduct during voting

One sign is seen of Activists taking part in an event called a No-Birthday Party and pick-up line for Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on July 19, 2022 in New York City. Activists gathered near Schultz’s West Village home on his 75th birthday to protest the treatment of Starbucks workers trying to union, as well as Schultz’s recent statement about the permanently closing 16 locations.

Michael M. Santiago | beautiful pictures

Starbucks is asking the federal labor council to suspend all vote-by-mail union elections nationwide, alleging misconduct during the voting process by board employees and union organizers its baristas.

The Seattle-based coffee giant wrote in a letter to the chairman and general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board on Monday that labor council officials acted inappropriately. in an election in the Kansas City area and likely acted similarly in other elections. Starbucks cited a career NLRB expert who approached the company as a whistleblower.

More than 220 Starbucks cafes in the US have voted to merge, according to an NLRB inventory as of Friday. An additional 34 elections have been ordered or are taking place, and 7 more stores are waiting to schedule elections.

In a statement to CNBC, NLRB spokeswoman Kayla Blado said the agency has well-established processes for bringing up challenges related to its handling of election issues and executive cases. unfair employment.

“Those challenges should be addressed in specific filings for the specific issues covered,” says Blado. She said the board does not comment on open cases.

In its statement to CNBC, Starbucks Workers United said that Starbucks is trying to draw their attention away from anti-union activity and stop union elections.

“Ultimately, this is Starbucks’ latest attempt to manipulate the legal process for their vehicles and prevent workers from exercising their basic right to organize,” the campaign said.

In addition to requesting a halt to all scheduled mail-in elections at its U.S. stores, Starbucks is also asking to hold all future elections in person while the charges can be investigated. check.

According to Starbucks, NLRB officials allegedly coordinated with union agents to arrange for in-person voting at the labor council’s office during mail-in elections. The Company also alleges that Company employees have been provided with real-time confidential information about specific vote counts so that unions can target employees who have not yet voted. NLRB officials and United Workers then allegedly coordinated to cover up the operation, the company said.

Starbucks’ letter details the correspondence that allegedly occurred between union representatives and labor council officials. The company said it was informed by the whistleblower about the contents of the email.

Starbucks says similar behavior occurred during elections in Seattle and Buffalo, New York.

“Until a thorough investigation is conducted, no one can predict how many elections in how many other regions have been similarly infected,” the company said in the letter.

Under the interim CEO Howard Schultz, Starbucks has more strongly opposed consolidation efforts at its locations. So far, the number of cafes in the alliance is only a fraction of the nearly 9,000 owned by Starbucks, but the coffee chain has been working to slow the alliance’s growth. .

For example, Starbucks announced a new pay increase in May for employed workers but said the changes would not apply to union locations, saying they would have to go through negotiation process. In the first day of this month, United workers officially requested the company to extend salary increases to those locations.

Starbucks is also facing 284 allegations of unfair labor practices from the union, according to the NLRB. Allegations of misconduct by the company include claims that it illegally fired organizers, closed stores, or harassed its employees to prevent baristas from affiliating. Starbucks has denied all claims of union vandalism.

The company filed two charges of its own against union organizers in Phoenix and Denver with the labor department. The NLRB denied Phoenix’s allegations, saying there was insufficient evidence that union supporters harassed colleagues and customers during a protest.

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