Starbucks committed ‘flagrant’ violations in the fight against the union, the judge rules


Starbucks committed “blatant and widespread” violations of federal labor laws as they attempted to stop union campaigns, a federal administrative judge ruled Tuesday, ordering the coffee giant to issue back wages and damages to workers who launched a nationwide class action against the company.

Starbucks showed “a general disregard for workers’ fundamental rights,” Judge Michael A. Rosas wrote in a 220-page order released Wednesday.

In solving a massive case that combined 33 allegations of unfair labor practices from 21 stores in the Buffalo area, Rosas believed the company was retaliating against employees affiliated with Starbucks Workers United when they began a union action in 2021. Since then, 268 of the company’s roughly 9,000 U.S. stores have voted to join a union, and Starbucks interim chief executive Howard Schultz has drawn the ire of liberal political leaders.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said Wednesday he would force a vote to subpoena Schultz as part of a hearing on union efforts at Starbucks.

Rosas’ order requires Starbucks to end an extensive list of conduct, including: retaliation against employees for union membership; promise better wages and benefits if employees resign from the union; supervising union support workers while on site; refusing to hire potential employees who support the union; and moving union organizers to new stores to shut down the group’s activity, with stores overstaffing before the union vote.

Starbucks, the judge said, must reopen stores it closed as union momentum among workers increased, rescind dozens of disciplinary actions against workers in the Buffalo area, pay “reasonable consequential damages” and offer to rehire laid-off workers. Rosas’ order also calls for Schultz and Denise Nelson, the company’s senior vice president of US operations, to read a 14-page message explaining workers’ rights and how the company was breaking the law.

That same message should be posted in each of the company’s stores, Rosas ruled, and shared digitally with employees. He also ordered Starbucks to begin negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with workers in the Buffalo area.

Starbucks representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“When employees launched their organization campaign in the summer of 2021, we never imagined how far Starbucks would go to prevent employees from exercising their legal right to organize,” said Gary Bonadonna Jr., manager of the regional joint Workers United Rochester. council, said in a statement. “This ruling proves what we’ve been saying all along: Starbucks is the figurehead of union destruction in the United States. We are thrilled that the company is being held accountable for their actions and we will continue to fight until every Starbucks employee has the right to organize.”






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