Labor Board Rains On Starbucks' Union-Busting Parade

Class War
Labor Board Rains On Starbucks' Union-Busting Parade

On February 19, the effort to unionize Starbucks hit a milestone — 100 stores in 26 states across the country had officially filed for union votes, following the successful union votes of two stores in western New York. That's pretty good news, but it hasn't been easy, as the company has been cracking down hard on unionization efforts across the US.

The day after that milestone was hit, Cassie Fletcher, one of the organizers at a Buffalo, New York, store that successfully unionized this year, was terminated without notice for having adjusted her availability in order to take on a second job.

It's not clear that there was a direct connection, but Starbucks has been working hard and playing some dirty tricks to keep workers across the country from unionizing. From closing pro-union stores for "maintenance" to what went down in Memphis, Tennessee, earlier this month when seven workers who were pushing unionization efforts were fired. Supposedly this was over allowing media into the store to interview them, but it also came directly after the workers signed a letter to Starbucks corporate asking, “Please, in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., do not bring your so-called ‘pro-partner’ anti-union campaign to Memphis.”

In Mesa, Arizona, workers were all set to have their ballots counted for their own union vote when the National Labor Relations Board confiscated and impounded the ballots, due to Starbucks having asked the NLRB to reconsider requiring Starbucks stores to hold union votes on a regional basis rather than a store-by-store basis. The purpose of this is obvious.

Delaying votes gives them more time to send company union-busters down to try to convince workers that unions are bad and that they can get everything a union can get them without organizing. Also, by mixing up stores that have been pushing for unions with those that haven't been, they believe they can drown out the pro-union votes. The way unionization frequently "works" is in a wave. One store gets unionized, others see how it works out for employees and organize their own votes at their own stores. That is obviously not what Starbucks wants.

READ MORE: Congratulations To The Fine Workers At The First Unionized Starbucks Shop!

But too bad for Starbucks, because yesterday, the NLRB rejected their nonsense (again!).

Via Truthout:

Starbucks has made this argument in attempts to delay or stop elections during every election so far, and the NLRB has rejected it each time. However, this week’s decision will make it harder for the company to make the argument in the future, setting a binding precedent against its use.

In this case, Starbucks had said that the vote count in Mesa, Arizona, which was scheduled for last week, should be delayed in order to accommodate more stores’ votes – an argument that was already denied last month when the company tried to stop the election that was ongoing at the time.

The labor board said in its decision Wednesday that there are “no substantial issues warranting review” and that the board’s presumption that votes will be counted store-by-store is appropriate. The vote count for the Power and Baseline store has been scheduled for Friday afternoon, and the union is confident that it will be a “delayed victory” for the workers.

Naturally, the company says it's not entirely giving up on this nonsense, which they claim they are doing out of a great love and respect for their "partners," the saccharine term the company uses to refer to their workers. “Our position since the beginning has been that all partners in a market or district deserve the right to vote on a decision that will impact them,” Starbucks spokesperson Reggie Borges said in a statement. “We will continue to respect the NLRB.’s process and advocate for our partners’ ability to make their voices heard."

Sure they will.

The good news for Starbucks workers is that this decision is binding and will make it a lot harder for the company to pull this scam in the future. The bad news is that they will probably come up with other scams. Although the harder a company fights against unionization, the more obvious the need for it becomes.

And it's clearly needed already.

Workers from several stores spoke out last night during a town hall with Senator Bernie Sanders (no fighting!), explaining that they're not making enough to live, and that they're certainly not making enough to see a doctor. These things are the bare minimum anyone should expect from a job.

Starbucks is actually doing quite well right now, with Barron's reporting at the beginning of this month "that "[t]he coffee giant’s net income of $816 million was up 31% from a year ago. Reported revenue was $8.1 billion. That topped expectations of $7.98 billion." Part of this is because there has been increased foot traffic, but another part is the fact that they've raised prices on the menu, which they of course are pretending they "have" to do because of "inflation."

Meanwhile, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson and Chief Operating Officer John Culver each got themselves a sweet 40 percent raise.


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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse


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