May 6, 2022 - Economy

Starbucks illegally fired and threatened pro-union workers, labor board alleges

Photo of a Starbucks store built from red brick, with snow on the ground

A Starbucks store on Dec. 9, 2021 in Buffalo, New York. Photo: Eleonore Sens/AFP via Getty Images

Starbucks violated federal law by illegally interfering with workers' rights, U.S. labor board prosecutors alleged in a complaint on Friday, CNBC reports.

Why it matters: The complaint comes amid a larger labor movement that has swept the country; Starbucks employees at multiple locations have voted to join the national union Starbucks Workers United since December.

Details: The allegations, which were brought by the union, accuse the company of firing six pro-union workers, engaging in a pattern of surveillance and retaliation and closing stores as part of its intimidation campaign in New York.

  • Starbucks, which has repeatedly denied violating workers' rights, faces 29 unfair labor practice charges, including over 200 violations of the National Labor Relations Act.

What they're saying: The complaint, which the National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) Buffalo regional director filed on behalf of its general counsel, requests that Starbucks remedy the alleged violations by reinstating employees who were allegedly fired or forced out as retaliation, providing financial compensation and submitting letters of apology.

  • It notes that CEO Howard Schultz also allegedly violated the law by promising an "increase in benefits" if workers don't unionize, per CNBC.
  • "Starbucks has been saying that no union busting ever occurred in Buffalo," Starbucks Workers United tweeted. "Today, the NLRB sets the record straight. The Complaint confirms the extent and depravity of Starbucks’ conduct in Western New York for the better part of a year."
  • "Starbucks will be held accountable for the union-busting minefield they forced workers to walk through in fighting for their right to organize."
  • The company did not immediately return a request for comment. Schultz said last month that the company is "being assaulted, in many ways, by the threat of unionization."

Worth noting: Starbucks recently criticized a meeting at the White House with representatives of labor unions for major companies that included members of Starbucks' growing union.

Go deeper