Starbucks Allegedly Broke The Law By Refusing Union Zoom Meetings

Yesterday, Bloomberg reported that prosecutors for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has accused Starbucks of violating federal labor laws because company representatives refused to participate in collective bargaining negotiations with workers via video conference. The allegations come just days after the company's new CEO, Laxman Narasimhan took Howard Schultz's seat earlier than expected. Schultz is scheduled to appear before a Senate committee tomorrow, March 29, 2023, to testify about the company's treatment of unionizing employees under his leadership.

The new NLRB accusations are just the latest of more than 80 complaints the board has made about the Seattle-based coffee giant's attempts to thwart the efforts of unions like Starbucks Workers United (SWU) to advocate for a higher starting wage, consistent schedules, better healthcare, and tipping via credit card at all locations. Though Starbucks declined to comment to Bloomberg, the company has previously said the anti-union claims against the company are "categorically false" and blamed SWU for holding up negotiations by insisting that workers be allowed to meet via Zoom. The Starbucks union, however, tells a different story.

One barista said Starbucks walked out after three minutes

Starbucks Workers United contends that its members have valid reasons for needing to participate in negotiations with Starbucks virtually, and the union is backed by the NLRB's finding that the company's refusal to participate violates federal labor law. Barista and SWU member Tyler Keeling told Reuters, "Now that it's clear we have the right to bargain using a virtual component, we hope Starbucks is ready, too."

Following the NLRB's finding, Starbucks may choose to alter its policies about virtual union negotiations, or the accusations may be escalated into formal complaints by regional directors for the NLRB, a step Tyler Keeling would welcome. He told Bloomberg, "We had our first bargaining date in October and Starbucks walked out after three minutes." 

Starbucks told Reuters, "Workers United is asking for a seat at the table, we're simply encouraging them to take their seat in-person at the negotiating table, as required, to move the bargaining process forward." While it's unclear whether Starbucks will opt to participate in virtual union negotiations, it's likely that Howard Schultz will face some tough questions when he appears before the Senate committee tomorrow.