Starbucks has been accused of unfair dismissals and union busting, as more than 200 workers since December 2021 have been fired, and several more have been ‘pushed out’, for union activity.
Multiple Starbucks workers have filed unfair practice charges with the National Labour Relations Board (NLRB) against the company, claiming they were dismissed or treated badly for unionising, primarily with Starbucks Workers United.
Starbucks Workers United represents over 8000 workers at over 331 stores, and in over 40 states.
One Starbucks worker, Alicia Flores, said she received a voicemail from a temporary manager saying she had been fired after getting involved in a union campaign at her branch. She told the Guardian that when she looked into the reasons for her dismissal, the coffee giant said she was under investigation for sending ‘explicit’ photos to a colleague. However, Flores says the ‘explicit’ image she sent to her co-worker was an album cover of popstar Lana Del Rey.
Another employee, Haya Odeh, who worked as a barista for over two years said she was fired when she asked to transfer to a branch near her university. Odeh says her dismissal was linked to her unionising efforts, as her manager threatened that she wouldn’t be able to transfer due to her union activity.
Throughout the unionising campaign, which started in 2021, the NLRB has gone through hundreds of cases of unfair treatment and union bashing from Starbucks workers and their respective unions.
73 complaints are pending, while the NLRB issued 100 complaints covering 357 unfair labour practice charges. Altogether, 633 open or settled charges have been docketed against Starbucks.
“Starbucks has become the worst offender of federal labor law in modern US history, with 200+ violations and counting,” said Starbucks Workers United. “In the court of public opinion and the court of law, Starbucks is beginning to pay a price for their actions.”
But in a statement, a spokesperson from the coffee giant disputed allegations of unfair practices and union busting. They said: “We believe the allegations made by Workers United are meritless, and that actions taken were both lawful and in alignment with long-established partner policies – not in retaliation for any partners’ participation in, or support of, union activities,” the spokesperson said.
They added: “As a company, we respect our partners’ right to organize and to engage in lawful union activities without fear of reprisal or retaliation. Starbucks trains managers that no partner will be disciplined for engaging in lawful union activity and that there will be no tolerance for any unlawful anti-union behavior.”