NLRB Claims Starbucks Violated NLRA in Buffalo, N.Y.

Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. May 9, 2022

​The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regional director in Buffalo, N.Y., claimed Starbucks had sustained more than 200 violations of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) during the unionization efforts in the city and issued a complaint against the company on May 6. We've gathered articles on the news from SHRM Online and other media outlets.

Complaint's Assertions

The NLRB maintained Starbucks interfered with, restrained and coerced employees seeking to unionize. The NLRB regional office said the company intimidated workers by closing stores in the area and enforcing policies against union supporters in a discriminatory way. Starbucks also allegedly reduced workers' compensation, engaged in surveillance and unlawfully fired workers.

"Starbucks does not agree that the claims have merit, and the complaint's issuance does not constitute a finding by the NLRB," said Reggie Borges, a Starbucks spokesman. "It is the beginning of a litigation process that permits both sides to be heard and to present evidence. We believe the allegations contained in the complaint are false."


Benefits Expansion Not Extended to Union Employees

Starbucks interim CEO Howard Schultz announced an expansion to company benefits, which would be unavailable to workers at the more than 45 cafes that have voted to unionize since December 2021. New benefits may also be inaccessible to workers at stores that have filed for elections but have not yet held votes. "Federal law prohibits us from promising new wages and benefits at stores involved in union organizing. And by law, we cannot implement unilateral changes at stores that have a union," Schultz said. But some legal experts said the legality of increasing benefits only for nonunionized stores is ambiguous and complicated.

(HR Dive)

Increase in Wages

All Starbucks employees, including those at unionizing stores, will receive wage hikes first announced in October 2021. On Aug. 1, employees will get either a 3 percent raise or $15 an hour, whichever is higher, and tenured hourly employees will get larger raises. But Schultz suggested that Starbucks would exclude unionized stores from new benefits after that. Workers United filed unfair-labor-practice charges with the NLRB.


Listening Tour

Schultz is going around the country, listening to employees' complaints about the company. Employees note the lack of training, increased turnover and pressure they've experienced as company profits soared but worker conditions deteriorated. Schultz is listening with the goal of helping employees find solutions and building trust.


NLRB Seeks Reinstatement of Starbucks Workers

The NLRB's Phoenix chief alleged on April 22 that Starbucks retaliated against three employees for engaging in unionizing activity and asked a court to have them reinstated. In a separate complaint, the NLRB claimed Starbucks unlawfully fired seven employees in Memphis, Tenn., who were seeking to unionize.

In a letter on the company's website posted April 10, Schultz said, "We must not be distracted by the different vision being put forward by union organizers at some Starbucks stores. And while not all the partners supporting unionization are colluding with outside union forces, the critical point is that I do not believe conflict, division and dissension—which ha[ve] been a focus of union organizing—benefit Starbucks or our partners."

(SHRM Online)



Hire the best HR talent or advance your own career.

Are you a department of one?

Expand your toolbox with the tools and techniques needed to fix your organization’s unique needs.

Expand your toolbox with the tools and techniques needed to fix your organization’s unique needs.



HR Daily Newsletter

News, trends and analysis, as well as breaking news alerts, to help HR professionals do their jobs better each business day.