NLRB Rules Starbucks Violated Labor Law by Closing Ithaca Stores

Leah Shepherd By Leah Shepherd July 10, 2023

​The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on July 6 ordered Starbucks to reopen one of the three stores it closed in Ithaca, N.Y., and reinstate employees with back pay. It found the coffee retail chain engaged in unfair labor practices by closing unionized stores. Starbucks Workers United is the union that represents Starbucks employees.

We gathered a selection of articles on the news from SHRM Online and other news sources.

Starbucks Will Appeal

Deputy Chief Administrative Law Judge Arthur Amchan found the company violated federal labor law on numerous occasions, most of which were related to the treatment of employees at the company's three unionized store locations in Ithaca—all of which have ceased operations.

Andrew Trull, senior manager of corporate communications at Starbucks, said the company intends to contest the NLRB's findings and recommendations.

Starbucks Workers United lawyer Mike Dolce said the store Amchan ordered to be reopened, on College Avenue, will remain closed unless the NLRB files and successfully pursues an injunction in federal court, in support of Amchan's decision.

Nationwide, about 300 Starbucks stores have unionized since 2021, but none have been able to negotiate a contract. Starbucks did not respond to SHRM's request for comment.

(The Ithaca Voice)

NLRB Finds Unfair Labor Practices

Amchan concluded that Starbucks violated the National Labor Relations Act several times by dismissing and punishing employees and by more harshly enforcing company policies after the company knew of unionization efforts in its Ithaca stores. He said the company showed anti-union bias by cutting operating hours at stores, telling employees that the College Avenue location would permanently close before an official decision was made, and failing to negotiate with the union.

The NLRB ordered Starbucks to bargain with the union, remove any reference to the unlawful dismissal and penalties given to 11 former employees from their personnel files, post a notice about working rights in all locations nationwide, and distribute that information electronically.

(The Cornell Daily Sun)

Three Stores Closed

The NLRB ruling comes just over a year after the company closed the College Avenue cafe. That closure, on one of Ithaca's busiest and most heavily traveled commercial corners, came weeks after staff at all three Ithaca locations overwhelmingly voted to unionize. Less than a year after that location closed, the company decided to close both remaining cafes in Ithaca.


Resistance to Union at Buffalo and Rochester Stores

Last year, Ithaca became the first town nationwide where every Starbucks employee was unionized. Employees in a Buffalo, N.Y., store recently tried to decertify the union, which said the decertification attempt was due to union-busting tactics. Likewise, employees at a union store in Rochester, N.Y., filed a decertification petition on May 8.

(SHRM Online)

Lawsuit Over Reorganization at Seattle Stores

The NLRB on July 6 sued Starbucks over the coffee chain's refusal to rehire 33 workers as it reorganized three downtown Seattle stores, including its flagship store in Pike Place Market. In a petition filed in Seattle federal court, the agency called Starbucks' plan to reorganize the stores into a "Heritage District," and force 73 workers to reapply for their jobs, an illegal response to unionization efforts at one of the stores, at 1st Avenue and Pike Street.

The petition seeks an injunction to block Starbucks from firing or disciplining workers, denying them higher wages and benefits, or forcing them to reapply for jobs because of their union activities.


Former Starbucks CEO Denies Union-Busting

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz defended the company's labor practices, garnering praise and criticism from lawmakers in a U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on March 29. Schultz said the company has not broken federal labor law. However, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said the company has done so in more than 100 instances.

(SHRM Online)



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