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Labor Board seeks union at Starbucks where union lost election


The National Labor Relations Board is seeking to order Starbucks to recognize a union at a Buffalo-area store where the union lost an early vote last year.

The move is part of a broader effort by the board to examine the coffee chain’s response to a nationwide labor campaign. In an amended complaint against the company, the agency on Thursday accused Starbucks of intimidating and retaliating against workers who seek to unionize.

The labor board’s attempt to order the company to bargain at a store where the union did not win is “aggressive” but within the normal range of remedies for such cases, said Matthew Bodie, a former labor commission lawyer who teaches law at Saint-Louis University. “The complaint sends a message,” Mr Bodie added.

Workers have voted to unionize at more than 70 Starbucks stores since December and have filed petitions for union elections at more than 150 additional coffee shops. Starbucks owns and operates approximately 9,000 outlets in the United States.

The regional offices of the Labor Board issue complaints after concluding that the accusations made against employers or unions are well-founded. Complaints are argued before an administrative law judge, and a judge’s decisions can be appealed to the National Labor Board in Washington.

The regional office overseeing Buffalo filed an initial complaint two weeks ago accusing Starbucks of firing employees for supporting the union; promising benefits to workers to deter them from joining a union; intimidate workers seeking union membership by subjecting them to surveillance; and other illegal behavior.

The labor board noted that workers at the store, known as Camp Road, had indicated their desire to unionize and that there was little chance a fair election could be held.

“Therefore, on the whole, the feelings of employees regarding representation, having been expressed by permission cards, would be better protected by the issuance of a bargain order for the Camp Road store,” the complaint states. .

The amended complaint also accuses the company of “packing” another Buffalo-area store with outside employees ahead of a union election last fall. The union nevertheless won an election in this store.

“The NLRB’s choice to pursue a bargain order at Camp Road is nothing short of exceptional,” Gianna Reeve, shift manager at the store, said in a statement. “Partners in this place have been subjected to some of the most aggressive union busting in recent years.”

Starbucks said in a statement that the complaint does not constitute a labor board judgment. “We believe the allegations contained in the NLRB Regional Director’s filing are false, and we look forward to presenting our evidence when the allegations come to trial,” the company said.

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