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Starbucks accuses National Labor Relations Board employees of secretly coordinating with Kansas City-area labor organizers — and wants the agency to halt all mail-in ballots nationwide until an investigation thorough has been carried out. But union organizers immediately called the decision an extension of a wider anti-union campaign.
The allegation is at the center of a 16 page letter Starbucks attorneys were sent Monday to NLRB Chairman Lauren McFerran and the agency’s general counsel.
In the letter, which Starbucks shared with NPR, the company accuses NLRB staff and the union of exploiting weaknesses in the mail-in voting system to unfairly influence a vote to unionize a store in Overland Park, Kansas. , earlier this year.
Starbucks alleges that NLRB regional staff repeatedly crossed the line of neutrality, alleging that despite the mail-in election order, the agency arranged for some voters to vote in person without informing representatives of Starbucks.
It also says NLRB workers shared real-time information with organizers about whether certain ballots had been received. And the company said it believes similar actions have taken place in at least two other NLRB regions.
The National Labor Relations Board was established in 1935 to protect the rights of workers to organize and bargain collectively with their employers on working conditions and other issues.
NLRB and organizers respond to Starbucks claims
When contacted for comment, NLRB spokeswoman Kayla Blado noted that the agency does not comment on open cases – but it appears that, for now at least, Starbucks’ grievances are unresolved. not in this category, as his far-reaching letter does not follow the NLRB’s long-formalized rules for handling contested elections and other circumstances.
“These challenges should be raised in documents specific to the particular issues at hand,” Blado said. “Regional staff – and, ultimately, the Commission – will carefully and objectively consider any challenges raised through these established channels, which include opportunities to seek expedited review in representation and unfair labor practice cases.”
The pro-union group Starbucks Workers United said the new charges were part of the Seattle company’s broader strategy to thwart organized labor.
“This is Starbucks once again trying to deflect attention from its unprecedented anti-union campaign, including firing more than 75 union leaders across the country, while simultaneously trying to stop all union elections,” said the group told NPR via email. “Workers spoke loud and clear winning 82% of union elections.
Where do the Starbucks claims come from?
Starbucks says the charges come from a “career NLRB professional” who it says “is aware of material detailing a concerted effort to tip the scales by voting for the Union in an election of Kansas City (Overland Park) area store”. Starbucks did not name the person.
When asked in a follow-up conversation whether the NLRB worker had used federal whistleblowing protocols or contacted the agency’s inspector general about his concerns, the company said the supervisor of the person had chosen not to follow up on his complaints.
Despite Starbucks’ insistence that its employees – known as “partners” – do not need a union, Starbucks Workers United says more than 200 of the company’s stores in the United States are now unionized. The effort has gained momentum rapidly over the past year, but unionized locations represent only a small fraction of the 15,650 U.S. stores Starbucks listed in its latest earnings report.