The Disturbing Allegations Starbucks Is Being Sued For

The past year has been a long and unflattering one for Starbucks as multiple accusations of unlawful union-busting practices have made headlines time and time again. According to the National Labor Relations Board, the coffee giant's illegal tactics as of June 2022 have included closing stores that are undergoing union elections, threatening to fire union activists, dramatically cutting hours, withholding pay, and conversely increasing wages and benefits for employees who vote not to unionize. In June, Starbucks even threatened to revoke trans-inclusive healthcare for union employees, says Eater. Two weeks ago, four U.S. senators stepped in, sending interim CEO Howard Schultz a letter demanding that he disclose how much money Starbucks has spent this year on legal fees against union lawsuits, per Reuters.

But, judging by the company's continuing tirade against its workers, it looks like the letter fell on deaf ears. Last week, says Bloomberg, corporate Starbucks illegally tried to get law enforcement to physically break up a group of picketing employees. Now, in the latest chapter of Starbucks' downward spiral, the company has proved it will try pretty much anything to justify terminating pro-union employees — including accusing them of assault and kidnapping. (Yes, really.) Here's the story.

South Carolina stands with Starbucks employees

In perhaps its most unflattering allegation so far (which, clearly, is saying something), eight South Carolina employees are accusing Starbucks of "defamation and abusing the legal process in violation of state law," per Reuters. In August, when the former Anderson, South Carolina workers asked for a raise, their manager sicked the police on them, insisting they be arrested for kidnapping and assault. The manager called a district manager, falsely reporting that the benefit-seeking employees were forcefully detaining her in the store. The following weeks were filled by an investigation from local authorities; officers reportedly even came to the employees' homes. Their findings? South Carolina law enforcement says the employees didn't do anything wrong.

This isn't the first time a local authority has been forced to stand between corporate Starbucks and its workers. In September, Starbucks was sued by New York City for a nearly identical firing (via CNBC). The termination violated NYC's "Just Cause" rule, which went into effect on July 4, 2021. This law was created specifically to protect fast-food industry workers' rights and says that employers cannot legally fire an employee without evidence of a fireable offense. 

The South Carolina investigation came after the store's unanimous union election in June. So far, over 240 Starbucks stores nationwide have successfully voted to unionize. The coffee giant might be on a winning streak concerning its fall menu, but its public actions are much tougher to digest.