Labor board says Starbucks is illegally withholding raises from union workers

Labor board says Starbucks is illegally withholding raises from union workers
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The National Labor Relations Board claimed in a complaint Wednesday that Starbucks was illegally withholding wages and benefits from thousands of unionized baristas.

The complaint came during a campaign by the coffee chain and its interim CEO, Howard Schultz, to suppress unionization efforts at its stores in the United States. More than 230 locations have voted to join the Starbucks Workers United union since late 2021, increasing unionization across the country.

The NLRB has been seeking back payments and benefits to unionized workers since May and requires Schultz to read a statement to workers on their union rights. The board, which is tasked with enforcing labor laws that protect union rights, said Starbucks’ rejection of union employee benefits and raises was aimed at deterring union organizing.

However, Starbucks denied this. “We’ve been clear that we’re following NLRB guidelines on unilaterally benefiting,” Starbucks spokesperson Reggie Borges said in an email.

The company specified and newsletter In July, it declared that once a union is formed, it cannot legally change benefits or wages without negotiating with a union. “Partners still have access to all Starbucks benefits currently in effect at the time of petition, but any changes to your wages, benefits, and working conditions that Starbucks has set after then will not apply to you and will have to be negotiated,” he said. says.

Union activists were thrilled at the weight of the labor board. “This is a historic victory for democracy and the rule of law, and a billionaire CEO should apologize to his employees for abusing and violating their rights and integrating them,” said Richard Bensinger, a lead organizer of the Starbucks Workers United campaign.

As organizers gained momentum, Starbucks sought to fend off union efforts. Schultz announced in May that the company would increase salaries and double training hours at its more than 10,000 company-owned stores. But he said these changes won’t apply to stores that have recently become unionized, or to stores that are in the process of unionizing, where workers have applied for union elections.

“We don’t have the same freedom where these improvements are unionized or where union organizing continues,” Schultz said in an earnings call at the time.

In August, non-union Starbucks workers working since May 2 saw their wages rise to $15 an hour, or 3 percent, whichever is higher. Employees with between two and five years of experience received an increase of at least 5 percent or 5 percent above the initial rate in their market, whichever is greater. Non-union baristas with more than five years of experience received a raise of at least 7 percent or 10 percent above the initial rate in their market, whichever is greater.

This year, Schultz stated that employees who do not seek union assistance can access the rights of the chain. relaunched coffee specialty programKnown as “The Coffee Masters”. Non-union stores will see new investments in equipment and technology, and improved tipping options for customers. Further communications indicated that the dress code will be updated to allow for more flexibility in piercings and tattoos, but only for non-union workers. According to the labor board, these benefits have been cut from unionized workers since May.

The complaint alleges that the company also withholds faster sick-time accrual benefits, career advancement opportunities, and extended credit card tips from workers at unionized stores.

The labor board says failure to grant these benefits and pay increases to union workers violates the National Labor Relations Act, which protects workers’ right to engage in union activities without interference, coercion and retaliation.

“I wasn’t surprised by Howard Schultz’s comments, but I was pleasantly surprised at the action taken by the NLRB,” said Gianna Reeve, a Starbucks barista and union organizer in Buffalo who didn’t get a raise in August because she worked. in a unionized store.

The labor board also requests Starbucks to provide a copy of all payroll records, time sheets, and staff reports so it can analyze the amount of reimbursement owed to workers. The resolution outlined in the complaint will require the company to send apology letters to all affected baristas and to provide managers and supervisors with training in labor rights and labor law.

Starbucks may try to solve the case. Otherwise, an administrative law judge will hold a hearing on the matter in October. 25.

The NLRB is also challenging the company’s response to the union initiative in federal district court. Last week, a federal judge Ordered Starbucks to be reinstated Seven fired baristas who joined the union organizing at a store in Memphis. Starbucks Workers United said the coffee chain giant had laid off more than 75 union leaders since December.

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