Starbucks Is Again Under Fire From The National Labor Relations Board

Ever since a Starbucks location in Buffalo, New York approved the first employee union in the United States last December, the push for unionization has been met with contention. According to CNBC, Starbucks has been accused by Starbucks Workers United (the name of the collective unionized employee organization) and other critics of using a variety of tactics to discourage employees from forming unions. And, one of the most recent of these tactics was to offer pay raises and expanded benefits to all of its "partners" (the name Starbucks uses for its workers) — all non-union partners at least. 

After being accused of using this as a union busting tactic, interim Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz claimed that it would be illegal for the company to provide unionized employees with the same benefits. The Wall Street Journal points out that while it is technically true that he cannot make these changes for all employees, Schultz is able to negotiate the matter with the union. Representatives of Starbucks Workers United even wrote a letter to Schultz, acknowledging they would waive their rights to negotiate, and accept the benefits if the offer was made.

Now, the company is facing more legal drama.

Starbucks may owe employees months of unpaid wages

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the independent federal agency that looks after worker's rights, is now stepping in to ensure that Starbucks' unionized workers are treated fairly. The Washington Post reports that the NLRB has found that Starbucks illegally withheld raises from unionized employees. More than 230 Starbucks locations have unionized since late last year, and Starbucks may now owe employees at those locations for months of unpaid additional wages.

According to Fox Business, the NLRB's official finding was that these expanded wages and benefits were being used as a tactic to dissuade employees from forming unions. Starbucks has denied these claims. The company can settle the issue or an official hearing will be held by an administrative law judge on October 25.

The NLRB will now be seeking payments for union employees dating back to May. It has also requested copies of all payroll records, time cards, and personnel reports to determine the amount of backpay needed. In addition, Starbucks may be required to issue apology letters to all affected employees and provide training to managers and supervisors on workers' rights and labor laws pertaining to their workplace.