Starbucks is in hot water with the National Labor Relations Board, which has issued 21 official complaints against the company for labor law violations. This follows the unionization of more than 200 Starbucks stores and the firing of more than 85 workers from those stores, allegedly for union organizing efforts.
The Guardian reports that 81 charges and 548 allegations of labor law violations are currently under review for Starbucks, including termination of the previously mentioned employees. Starbucks has ardently and vocally opposed the unionization of its employees since the first store in Buffalo, New York, passed the vote needed to unionize. The company has accused the National Labor Relations Board of favoring the union campaign and has called for union elections to be suspended temporarily.
The reasons given for the termination of the union employees has ranged from tardiness to availability to claims that one worker was “disruptive during protest.” Workers have responded to the claims with skepticism and exasperation.
“I was getting written up for being late by under five minutes,” said Joselyn Chuqillanqui, a shift leader of seven years at the Starbucks Great Neck Plaza, New York. She told The Guardian, “They tried to vilify me, implying I was getting paid by the union.”
According to The New York Times, another New York Starbucks employee, Cassie Fleischer, claimed she was told she would no longer be employed with the company if she couldn’t increase her availability. Union supporters claimed they hadn’t had resistance when requesting less hours in the past, however.
Jaysin Saxton at an Augusta, Georgia, location told The Guardian that he had been fired for his unionization efforts, under the premise that he had overstepped his bounds during a union protest. Saxton had presented a list of demands from workers at the Starbucks location, but the rally was shut down shortly after by management. This followed months of management creating more documented coachings, final written warnings and other disciplinary measures, the former workers said.
“It’s insane. They just created this intense culture of fear in the store and are trying to push us all out,” Saxton said.
Employees in the first location in Buffalo, New York, made their decision to unionize in December 2021. Vox Recode reported that with the organization of a union — in coordination with Workers United Upstate New York — Starbucks employees would have the ability to “negotiate a contract for better wages, benefits and working conditions.”
CNBC wrote that U.S. District Judge Sheryl Lipman has ordered the reinstatement of seven of the workers who were fired back in February and required the company to post the court order in the Memphis, Tennessee, store. The employees were reportedly fired for “several safety and security violations,” according to Commercial Appeal, though union workers claim they weren’t aware of the potential violations until their unionization efforts began.
Reggie Borges, a Starbucks spokesperson, expressed the company’s dissatisfaction with the judge’s decision.
“These individuals violated numerous policies and failed to maintain a secure work environment and safety standards,” Borges said. “Interest in a union does not exempt partners from following policies that are in place to protect partners, our customers and the communities we serve.”
Commercial Appeal wrote that the offenses, which occurred while union workers spoke to a local TV station about the union campaign, included:
- Starbucks employees opened a locked door of the business after hours without permission from management. They then let members of the public and employees who were off-duty into the store.
- The employees let these unauthorized individuals into the back of the store while leaving the open door unattended.
- One employee, who was not the designated cash controller for the evening, opened the store’s safe during this time. Another employee stood by and allowed it to happen.