Starbucks illegally threatened Seattle workers, Labor Department claims

Starbucks illegally threatened Seattle workers, Labor Department claims

(Bloomberg) – Starbucks Corp. unlawfully threatened employees in cities, including his hometown of Seattle, U.S. Labor Department prosecutors alleged in a lawsuit Tuesday.

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A regional director for the National Labor Relations Board alleges that letters the company sent to employees at 10 stores in Washington and Oregon states violated federal law. Workers were told that “negotiations can often take more than a year – if a contract is even reached” when workers organize and that in the meantime “benefits and wages are essentially frozen,” the complaint said .

In issuing this message, the company “disturbed, restrained and coerced employees in exercising their rights guaranteed under labor law,” the regional director wrote.

Starbucks denied wrongdoing. “We want our partners to be informed and have all the facts when making their decision and have followed the NLRB rules to ensure they have what they need to make the best decision for themselves” , spokeswoman Reggie Borges said in an email. “Allegations of anti-union activity are categorically false.”

NLRB regional directors across the country have filed more than 20 complaints against Starbucks on behalf of the agency’s General Counsel. In another Tuesday filing, the Chicago Labor Department’s regional director accused the company of violating the law by banning pro-union face masks and T-shirts, interrogating employees, telling employees it’s futile to unionize, and providing them with the There is a risk of loss of salary increases and social benefits if they have organized themselves.

Possible objections

In the absence of a settlement, such complaints will be heard by agency judges, whose judgments may be appealed to members of the Working Committee in Washington, DC, and from there in federal courts. The agency has the power to mandate changes to company policies, but cannot compel employers to pay punitive damages for violations.

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“The NLRB may have filed this complaint in Seattle, but workers across the country have received similar letters from Starbucks,” Arizona Starbucks employee Michelle Hejduk said in an emailed statement from the Starbucks Workers United union. “This complaint only scratches the surface of the threats Starbucks has made nationwide against workers in its anti-union pamphlets.”

Freezing benefits during contract negotiations has been a focal point in a nationwide battle between the company and the union that won elections this year at more than 200 of the chain’s approximately 9,000 company-operated US cafes.

In May, Starbucks announced a series of new pay rises and perks that take effect this month, but said those improvements would not apply to unionized locations. The union has argued that withholding the new perks is an intimidation tactic.

On its website, the company says: “The law is clear: once a business unionizes, no changes to benefits are allowed without good faith collective bargaining.”

(Updates with Chicago complaint in fifth paragraph.)

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