Starbucks union campaign continues with at least 16 stores organized

Starbucks activists have added momentum to a union campaign that went public in late August and supported decades of union-free labor at the company’s corporate-owned stores.

According to the National Labor Relations Board, on Thursday and Friday, employees of six New York stores voted to unionize, bringing the total number of company-owned stores to 16. The union, Workers United, was leading by a wide margin in Friday’s vote at a Kansas store, but the number of challenged ballots leaves the results in doubt until their position can be resolved. .

The union has lost only one election, but it is formally challenging the result.

Since the union won its first two victories in elections that concluded in December, workers from more than 175 other stores in at least 25 states have applied for union elections out of nearly 9,000 corporate-owned stores in the United States. . The Labor Board will count ballots in at least three more stores next week.

The success of the event at Starbucks reflects growing interest among workers in unionizing, including in Amazon’s efforts, where workers voted last week to unionize the Staten Island warehouse by a significant margin.

On Wednesday, the NLRB’s general counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo, said union election filings during the past six months were up more than 50% compared to the same period a year ago. Abruzzo expressed concern that a lack of funding and staff was making it difficult for the agency to sustain activity, saying in a statement that the board needed “a significant increase in funding to fully impact the agency’s mission.” “

Starbucks has sought to persuade workers not to unionize by holding anti-union meetings with workers and dialogue between managers and individual employees, but some employees say the meetings only encouraged their support for organizing. Is.

In some cases, Starbucks has even sent several senior executives to out-of-town stores, a move the company says is aimed at addressing operational issues such as staffing and training, but some union supporters have said they should. Looks intimidating.

The union has accused Starbucks of seeking to cut hours nationally for a long time to encourage employees to leave the company and replace them with employees who are more skeptical about unionizing. And the union argues that Starbucks retaliated against employees for supporting the union by disciplining or firing the union. Last month, the NLRB issued a formal complaint against Starbucks for retaliation against two Arizona employees, a move it took after finding merit in the allegations against employers or unions.

The company denies that it has cut hours to induce employees to leave, saying it schedules workers in response to customer demand, and it has dismissed allegations of anti-union activity. Is.

As the union campaign intensified in March, Starbucks announced that Kevin Johnson, who had served as CEO since 2017, would be replaced on an interim basis by Howard Schultz, who previously twice led the company and its Remains one of the largest investors.

Some investors, who warned Johnson that the company’s anti-union strategy could damage its reputation, expressed optimism that the leadership change could lead to a change in Starbucks’ attitude toward union. But the company soon announced that it would not agree to remain neutral in union elections, as the union requested, undermining those hopes.

On Monday, the day Schultz returned as CEO, Starbucks fired Layla Dalton, one of two Arizona employees against whom the NLRB accused Starbucks of retaliating in March. The company said Dalton violated company rules by recording co-workers’ conversations without their permission.

“A partner’s interest in a union does not exempt them from the standards we have always maintained,” company spokesman Reggie Borges said in a statement, using the company’s term for an employee.

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