Starbucks calls for suspension of union elections

As the union campaign at Starbucks stores gathers pace, Starbucks has redoubled its efforts to roll back the campaign and requested Monday that the National Labor Relations Board investigate allegations of misconduct during a union vote in the Kansas City area. .

Starbucks, in a letter to the labor board, requested that the agency investigate reports by an NLRB employee that there was unfair coordination between the agency and the union, specifically that several employees received special voting arrangements and that the NLRB provided confidential information in real time. union election results. The company requested that the agency suspend all elections until the allegations could be investigated. In addition, Starbucks has asked that all future elections be held entirely in person.

The union described the letter as part of the company’s strategy to obstruct the elections, as the union’s campaign has gained momentum with more than 200 victories secured in more than 250 elections.

“Starbucks simultaneously claims to stand for voter protection and then calls for all elections across the country to be suspended,” said Michelle Eisen, a barista at the Elmwood location in Buffalo, New York, the company’s first union-owned store. . “This is hypocrisy at its finest.”

In Monday’s letter, Starbucks defended the move. “Starbucks respects the rights of its partners to decide for themselves whether they wish to be represented by a union,” the company’s attorneys wrote. “But those rights can only be properly exercised, and realized, through a neutral and honest process.”

Starbucks has filed numerous complaints about procedural issues at various individual locations, said John Logan, an employment law professor at San Francisco State University. He said Starbucks’ efforts have forced labor board officials to spend their time and resources investigating complaints, some of which have turned out to be without substance.

“Very often with Starbucks, the complaint or the appeal is the point,” Mr. Logan said.

He said the company had attributed bias to procedural issues that are typical of a sweeping election campaign. “When there are hundreds of elections going on, more than 250 elections and more than 300 petitions have been held, people can make mistakes without the intention of changing the election for or against the union,” he said.

Tensions between union leaders and the company have intensified in recent weeks. Workers have staged more than 55 strikes in at least 17 states. As of Monday, for example, six stores in Eugene, Oregon, have gone on strike.

The NLRB is investigating Starbucks for several allegations of misconduct, including closing stores where workers had stood for union elections and firing union leaders and pro-union workers, which the company has denied.

The company faces more than 200 unfair labor practice charges in 28 states, which Logan said is an unusually high number for a union campaign that has lasted less than a year. A labor dispute between Caterpillar and the United Automobile Workers union, for example, lasted more than six years and generated hundreds of complaints of unfair practices.

In response to Starbucks’ letter on Monday, the NLRB said it could not comment on the details of its open cases.

“Regional staff, and ultimately the board, will carefully and objectively consider any challenges that arise through these established channels, including opportunities to seek expedited review in both representation and unfair labor practice cases.” said Kayla Blado, spokeswoman for the labor board

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