Mar 1, 2023 - Economy

Starbucks demonstrated "egregious" misconduct in union fight, judge rules

The Starbucks logo is seen in 2008. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Starbucks committed "egregious and widespread misconduct" while trying to stop labor union campaigns, a federal administrative law judge ruled Wednesday.

Driving the news: Following a hearing in an unfair labor practice case filed by a Starbucks union, Judge Michael A. Rosas ordered the company to reinstate seven workers, give backpay and damages compensation, have interim CEO Howard Schultz read a notice to employees and bargain with members.

  • The coffee giant showed "a general disregard for the employees’ fundamental rights," the judge wrote.

Context: Starbucks Workers United filed more than 30 charges alleging unfair labor practices committed by Starbucks at 21 stores in the Buffalo, New York area.

  • The judge found that Starbucks retaliated against employees affiliated with the union when they began a union drive in 2021.
  • Since then, 268 of the nearly 9,000 company-owned stores in the U.S. have voted to unionize, per the Washington Post.

Of note: The order comes the same day Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee will vote to subpoena Schultz to testify about the company's "lack of compliance with labor laws."

Zoom out: The National Labor Relations Board has lodged 77 complaints against the company since around 2019 for unfair practices — possibly the most complaints filed by the board against a company in recent history, Axios' Emily Peck writes.

  • Starbucks has aggressively tried to fend off unionization, though the company has denied violating labor law and assertions about the anti-union activity.

What's next: The parties have until March 28 to file an appeal.

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