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Starbucks threatened union workers in Texas cities, says labor board

Dallas Morning News logo Dallas Morning News 10/7/2022 Alexandra Skores, The Dallas Morning News

Starbucks violated federal labor law by threatening and attempting to conduct surveillance of workers organizing unions in Dallas, Austin and San Antonio, the National Labor Relations Board ruled this week.

The NLRB’s regional office in Fort Worth issued what union leaders describe as a “sweeping complaint” against the coffee giant following a months-long investigation.

Starbucks said it’s confident it complies with labor laws. The company recently sent notices to 238 U.S. stores that have voted to unionize offering a three-week window in October to start contract negotiations.

“We respect the right of all partners to make their decisions regarding union issues, whether they favor or oppose representation, and in all union dealings, including collective bargaining, we will always engage honestly and in good faith,” a Starbucks spokesperson told The Dallas Morning News in an email. “We appreciate every opportunity to share the facts and address inaccuracies about our company.”

The NLRB’s civil complaint alleged that Starbucks’ actions included telling workers they would lose benefits if they unionized, firing an employee who assisted the union and interrogating others about their interest in forming a union.

The Starbucks store at Mockingbird Station became the first in Dallas to form a labor union in July. Workers at the store petitioned to vote in June, joining a surge of unionization efforts around the country at Starbucks stores and other major chains such as Apple and Trader Joe’s.

Nikita Russell, 32, an organizer who works at the Mockingbird Station location, said the repercussions the Texas stores have faced are a “slap on the wrist,” for the coffee giant. Russell has been at the Mockingbird Station store since January and has been with the company for two years.

“It is a little bit of a comfort that they don’t get to act like nothing happened,” Russell said. “They get to own up to what they did.”

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has said he would never embrace a union as a part of the company, and the coffee chain has resisted union efforts to bargain on behalf of employees.

According to Starbucks Workers United, the company has fired over 120 pro-union leaders across the country, shuttering at least nine stores with union activity. The NLRB said it has now issued 34 complaints against Starbucks that total over 800 violations of federal labor law.

“I am looking forward to seeing more complaints from the NLRB because Starbucks owes a lot of apologies to a lot of partners,” said a statement from Morgan Leavey, a barista in Austin.

Workers in San Antonio and Houston were reportedly fired for aiding in union drives, including crew member Atticus Drummond. Workers at Houston’s first unionized Starbucks struck earlier this week over the firing of a union leader.

©2022 The Dallas Morning News. Visit dallasnews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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