Federal labor officials filed a lawsuit against Starbucks on Tuesday accusing the coffee chain of unlawfully interfering with workers’ efforts to form a union.
A regional director of the National Labor Relations Board said in the filing that company executives retaliated against pro-union employees in Arizona. One worker, Laila Dalton, was suspended while another, Alyssa Sanchez, eventually lost her job.
The complaint states that Starbucks “interfered with, restricted and coerced employees in exercising rights guaranteed” by federal labor laws. He alleges Starbucks officials used a previously unenforced rule to punish Dalton and stopped granting Sanchez’s scheduling requests, resulting in his firing. They also unlawfully monitored workers, according to the complaint.
As a remedy, the labor board’s general counsel said Starbucks should notify its employees nationwide that it broke the law and also compensate Sanchez for “consequential damages she suffered” at the hands of of the company.
A Starbucks spokesperson denied the allegations in an emailed statement to HuffPost: “We have always denied any allegations of union busting. They are categorically false.
So far, the labor campaign, known as Starbucks Workers United, has organized six stores, most in the Buffalo, New York, area, and called for elections in more than 100 others across the country. The workers are seeking to join Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, which has 2 million members.
Starbucks has gone to great lengths to try to shut down the effort, rounding up workers in union-busting meetings with executives and causing procedural deadlocks with union elections. In recent weeks, the union has filed a series of unfair labor practice complaints with the labor board, accusing the company of targeting union activists in an effort to thwart organizing efforts.
The complaint filed by the regional director of the labor board on Tuesday means that officials found these particular union allegations to be founded, opting to pursue legal action against the company. These cases are often settled before being tried before an administrative judge.
Bill Whitmire, a Starbucks barista in Phoenix, said in a statement via Starbucks Workers United that the company should apologize to Dalton and Sanchez, calling them “fantastic people of great character.”
“Today is the first step in holding Starbucks accountable for its unacceptable behavior during organizing efforts at our store and in stores across the country,” Whitmire said.
Last month, Starbucks fired seven pro-union workers at a store in Memphis, Tennessee, saying they violated company policy by bringing non-employees into their store after hours. . The union has filed charges that Starbucks unlawfully retaliated against these workers, but the labor board has yet to press charges.
The union also filed a separate lawsuit this month accusing Starbucks of cutting hours for pro-union workers across the country.