Starbucks Refused To Negotiate With Over 100 Union Stores, Says NLRB

On Tuesday, April 25, the NLRB filed a complaint against Starbucks alleging four separate violations of the National Labor Relations Act for more than 100 Starbucks stores whose employees are now represented by Starbucks Workers United. Bloomberg reports these allegations include various forms of unlawful interference with employees' right to organize. Such interference can include surveillance of employees as well as various forms of intimidation and coercion. And in the nearly 17 months since the first Starbucks store voted to unionize, the NLRB claims the coffee chain has consistently refused to negotiate in good faith with 144 unionized stores.

The stores at the center of this current controversy include the first two in New York state that unionized back in early December of 2021. The NLRB alleges Starbucks came to the table with "no intention of reaching an agreement" with the union. In support of its allegations, the NLRB cites incidents where company management proposed terms it knew were unacceptable to the union, as well as demeaning and undermining treatment of union representatives.

This latest complaint is among more than 80 filed by the NLRB since Starbucks employees first began organizing in 2021. But, as noted, it comes after well over a year of attempts to secure collective bargaining agreements at Starbucks' unionized stores.

Starbucks and the union remain at loggerheads

According to Georgia Public Broadcasting, since the unionizing efforts began, employees at 300 U.S. Starbucks stores have voted to unionize, which represents just 3% of all company-owned locations. Nevertheless, according to Bloomberg, not a single collective bargaining agreement has been finalized in the ensuing year and a half — or really even come close.

Starbucks has maintained its position before the Senate and elsewhere that it is, in fact, engaged in good-faith bargaining. On April 25, Starbucks told NewsChannel 13, in response to a rally of nearly 30 workers near the Stuyvesant Plaza location in Albany, New York, that it has always "fully honored the process." Representatives of the Seattle coffee behemoth have continued to blame Starbucks Workers United for dithering in various ways, including failing to confirm negotiating sessions proposed by the company.

The current controversy arose less than a month after the NLRB accused Starbucks of unlawful interference with collective bargaining by refusing to allow union representatives to participate in negotiations via video conferencing. Additionally, it happened nearly six weeks after the two U.S. Senators from New Jersey urged Starbucks to "stop delaying negotiations" with four unionized stores in their jurisdiction.

Starbucks responds

In response to this article, Starbucks sent a statement to Tasting Table addressing the allegations.

The coffee chain claims the union "knowingly frustrate[d] the bargaining process by insisting on national bargaining despite [management's] continued efforts to adhere to the NLRB's clear single-store bargaining-unit ruling," which led to the hold-up in coming to an agreement with more than 60 of the 144 unionized stores. Starbucks also noted that it has filed over 100 unfair labor practice charges against Workers United.

Starbucks asserts Workers United has prevented unionized company-owned locations from beginning the negotiation process in earnest because it has "failed to confirm more than three-fourths of the 390 collective bargaining sessions proposed by Starbucks, to-date." The company shared it "strongly denies any wrongdoing and has committed to exercising its right to defend itself."