Starbucks faces NLRB action over union-linked store closures

Making workers whole for work missed," NLRB demands Starbucks reopen closed stores.


The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a complaint against Starbucks, alleging the company illegally closed 23 stores with active union involvement. Set to be reviewed by an administrative law judge in the coming summer, this action by the NLRB signifies a critical juncture in the ongoing struggle between Starbucks and its unionizing workforce across the United States.

The NLRB’s complaint accuses Starbucks of shutting down stores as a response to union activities, a violation of federal labor laws. The Board has directed Starbucks to reopen these outlets and compensate the affected employees for lost wages and other related costs. This order represents one of the most direct actions taken by the NLRB against Starbucks in the context of the company’s widespread unionization movement.

Starbucks closed several stores in July 2022, during a period of increasing union activities. Among these, at least seven had already unionized. This timing has become a focal point in the NLRB’s case, suggesting a potential link between the closures and unionization efforts.

In response to the NLRB’s allegations, Starbucks stated that closing stores is a regular part of its business practices, with over 100 closures occurring last year for various reasons. This statement forms part of the company’s defense against the claims of union suppression.

Simultaneous with the NLRB complaint, Starbucks released a report on its labor practices, commissioned following requests from shareholders. Authored by Thomas Mackall, the report concluded that Starbucks had not adopted an anti-union strategy but acknowledged shortcomings in its response to unionization efforts.

Reacting to both the NLRB complaint and the independent report, Starbucks Workers United acknowledged the issues raised but emphasized the need for Starbucks to take concrete actions beyond mere acknowledgment. The union has reiterated its readiness for sincere dialogue with the company regarding contract negotiations for unionized stores.

The unionization movement within Starbucks has seen over 360 stores vote to join unions since 2021. These efforts have resulted in more than 100 complaints filed with the NLRB, alleging various illegal anti-union practices by Starbucks.

Following the NLRB complaint, the case will proceed to a hearing by an administrative law judge. The judge’s decision can be appealed to the NLRB’s five-member board and then to a federal appeals court, setting the stage for a potentially lengthy legal battle.

This case between Starbucks and the NLRB is viewed as significant within the broader labor movement in the United States. It reflects the challenges and dynamics of unionization efforts within large corporations.

The outcome of this legal confrontation could have lasting impacts on Starbucks’ operations and its approach to labor relations. The case will likely influence future unionization efforts and the company’s strategies in managing its workforce.

The NLRB’s action against Starbucks highlights the ongoing challenges in the realm of labor rights and corporate conduct in the context of unionization. As the case progresses, it will likely become a significant reference point in the discourse on workers’ rights and corporate accountability.

“Actions will speak louder than words,” said a Starbucks Workers United representative.


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