Starbucks committed a series of labor law violations by firing pro-union workers, disciplining and policing others, closing stores and changing labor policies in the course of its battle against an organizing campaign, according to a complaint filed by labor officials Friday. .
A regional director of the National Labor Relations Board brought the charges against the Seattle-based coffee chain, having found merit in the claims made by the Workers United union. The union has successfully organized more than 50 Starbucks stores since last year despite an aggressive counter-campaign by the company.
The complaint filed Friday was unusually broad, alleging a pattern of intimidation and retaliation at various New York stores.
The complaint says Starbucks closed stores with the intent to intimidate workers seeking a union, punished workers who supported the organizing effort, deployed managers to police union supporters, and provided benefits to try to put workers against the union.
A Starbucks spokesman did not immediately comment on the complaint.
The union campaign, known as Starbucks Workers United, said the complaint “completely exposes Starbucks’ façade as a ‘progressive company.'”
“Starbucks has been saying that there has never been a union busting in Buffalo. Today, the NLRB sets the record straight,” the campaign said in a statement Friday. “The complaint confirms the scope and depravity of Starbucks’ conduct in Western New York for most of the year. Starbucks will be held accountable for the anti-union minefield they forced workers through in the fight for their right to organize.”
Most of the alleged actions occurred at Starbucks stores in the Buffalo area, where the organizing campaign began in 2021. Since then, the effort has spread across the country, with more than 200 stores filing for union elections.
Such a labor board complaint could result in a settlement in which the employer agrees to change certain policies and perhaps reinstate the workers who were laid off. If no agreement is reached, the case could go to trial, with witnesses from both sides testifying.
The charges are part of a broader legal fight between Starbucks and Workers United, in which the campaign accuses the company of retaliating against organizers. The union has urged board officials to take action against Starbucks, arguing that the company’s actions will have a chilling effect on workers who would otherwise assert their rights.
Labor board officials have previously found merit in some of the union’s claims. A different regional director recently filed charges against Starbucks for firing a group of Tennessee workers known as the Memphis Seven.
In another case, the labor board’s general counsel went to federal court seeking a temporary injunction for three Starbucks workers to return to work. The attorney general accused Starbucks of targeting workers for their union support.
Read the full complaint below: