NLRB: Starbucks Refused to Bargain in Pacific Northwest

Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. January 3, 2023
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A Starbucks restaurant

​The National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB's) Seattle regional director has maintained that Starbucks refused to bargain collectively in several Pacific Northwest cities, including Portland, Ore., and Seattle. We've gathered articles on the news from SHRM Online and other news outlets.

Recent Complaint

The recent complaint said Starbucks should be forced to negotiate regularly with the union and to hold a meeting with interim Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz and representatives of the union and the government. At the meeting, a notice about workers' rights would be read to employees.

"This complaint proves what workers have been saying all along—Starbucks is dragging their feet [at] the negotiating table and refusing to bargain with us in good faith," New York barista and Starbucks Workers United leader Michelle Eisen said.

But Starbucks spokesperson Rachel Wall said, "We have come to the table time after time prepared to bargain in good faith, and continue to urge Workers United to uphold their promises to our partners by moving the bargaining process forward." The company has said that it adheres to the law and that claims of anti-union activity are "categorically false."

(The (Bend, Ore.) Bulletin)

Union's Allegations

Starbucks Workers United alleges that Starbucks is not bargaining in good faith by delaying scheduling sessions and leaving negotiations soon after they began because of workers joining virtually. The NLRB's lawsuit supports the union's claim. The stores involved in the complaint also include stores in Eugene, Ore., Olympia, Wash., and Tumwater, Wash., and are among 261 nationally that have unionized since December 2021.

(The Seattle Times)

Complaint Is First of Its Kind

The new NLRB complaint is the first in which agency prosecutors accuse Starbucks of not bargaining fairly at multiple stores—21 total in the Pacific Northwest. The union has filed other still-pending cases around the country accusing Starbucks of failing to bargain fairly. NLRB members ruled in November 2022 that Starbucks was illegally refusing to negotiate with the union at a mega-café in Seattle.

(Sioux City Journal)

Dispute at Seattle Café

The November decision ordered Starbucks subsidiary Siren Retail Corp. to negotiate with the new union at its Seattle Roastery restaurant, the second in the city to organize. Employees at the café voted in April to join Starbucks Workers United.

The company contested the union's victory because the government held an election by mail ballot rather than an in-person election. Starbucks plans to appeal the ruling.

(Bloomberg), (Capitol Hill Seattle Blog) and (SHRM Online)

Store Closures

Workers say Starbucks has closed stores because they were unionized. Starbucks responded that the closures have to do with profitability and safety issues.

(My Northwest)

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