Starbucks Engaged In 'Egregious' Violations Of Federal Law In Anti-Union Push, Judge Finds

The labor board judge said a broad ruling was necessary to ensure Starbucks stopped “infringing in any other manner on rights guaranteed employees.”

Starbucks’ efforts to stop unionization were “egregious and widespread” violations of federal law, a judge ruled Wednesday in a major win for labor groups.

Michael Rosas, an administrative law judge at the National Labor Relations Board, handed down the decision after a yearlong investigation into claims Starbucks aggressively engaged in unfair labor practices. He found that Starbucks had illegally monitored and disciplined employees who engaged in the union drive and committed various violations meant to weaken support for a union at several coffee shops in the Buffalo, New York, area.

Rosas said Starbucks showed a “general disregard for employees’ fundamental rights” amid 32 unfair labor charges made by employees in New York.

The ruling requires Starbucks to reopen coffee shops it had closed after the union drive began, reinstate seven workers in the Buffalo area and pay backpay and damages to dozens of workers the judge said were subject to retaliation that affected their wages. Starbucks must also bargain with the union at a location in Buffalo that lost a union election in late 2021.

Howard Schultz, the interim chief executive of Starbucks, was also ordered to read or be present for the reading of a notice related to the company’s violations. That notice will be posted in all Starbucks, and a recording of Schultz engaging with it will be distributed to employees.

The judge said the broad decision was necessary to ensure Starbucks stopped “infringing in any other manner on rights guaranteed employees.”

Starbucks said it believed the decision was “inappropriate given the record in this matter” and said it would consider “all options to obtain further legal review.” The ruling can be appealed to the NLRB in Washington, D.C.

Starbucks Workers United, the main group organizing the coffee giant, said the decision was a huge victory.

“This is truly a historic ruling,” Gary Bonadonna Jr., the regional head of Starbucks Workers United, told The Times. “We will continue to fight and hold billionaires like Howard Schultz accountable for their actions. We will not rest until every Starbucks worker wins the right to organize.”

The union drive began in 2021, prompting a fierce anti-union push from the company. The effort sparked a unionization drive, and the coffee chain now has nearly 300 unionized locations.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Wednesday he plans to hold a vote to determine if Schultz should be subpoenaed to testify before a Senate committee over the anti-union campaign. Sanders said he hoped to authorize a committee investigation into any labor law violations.

“A multibillion-dollar corporation like Starbucks cannot continue to break federal labor law with impunity. The time has come to hold Starbucks and Mr. Schultz accountable.”

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