People march in the middle of East Pine Street for a rally and march against Starbucks' union-busting in Seattle, Washington on April 23, 2022. (Photo: Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images)

Starbucks Violated Law and Must Bargain With Union in Seattle: NLRB

The coffee giant, which plans to appeal, "is continuing its aggressive anti-union campaign against workers by delaying, confusing, and flat-out refusing to bargain with them," said Starbucks Workers United.

After months of lawbreaking, Starbucks must swiftly begin negotiating with a union formed at one of its locations in Seattle, the federal agency that enforces labor law reaffirmed Wednesday.

The unanimous decision from three members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) comes after employees of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery at 1124 Pike St. in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood voted 38-27 in April to form a union--which the company has been fighting against since.

Starbucks, the NLRB order explains, "admits its refusal to bargain, but contests the validity of the union's certification of representative based on its contention, raised and rejected in the representation proceeding, that the regional director erred in directing an election by mail."

The document also notes that all issues raised by Starbucks "were or could have been litigated in the prior representation proceeding," and the coffee company is not offering "any newly discovered and previously unavailable evidence, nor has it established any special circumstances that would require the board to reexamine the decision."

The panel--featuring two Democrats and a Republican--commands Starbucks "to cease and desist from failing and refusing to recognize and bargain with the union, to bargain on request with the union and, if an understanding is reached, to embody the understanding in a signed agreement."

In response to the order, a Starbucks spokesperson told Bloomberg that "we are challenging certification of the Seattle Roastery election and plan to appeal today's decision."

Starbucks Workers United--which represents more than 260 U.S. locations that have unionized over the past year--said in a statement to Bloomberg that "Starbucks is continuing its aggressive anti-union campaign against workers by delaying, confusing, and flat-out refusing to bargain with them."

The Seattle-based company's union-busting across the United States since the first organizing victory in Buffalo, New York last December has garnered widespread criticism and legal action.

The NLRB "has filed five lawsuits asking judges to issue injunctions against Starbucks, including a new suit Wednesday in New York state, and one that led to reinstatement of seven terminated activists in Memphis," Bloomberg noted. "Agency judges have also ordered Starbucks to reinstate fired activists in Michigan and Kansas."

The agency's new order for Seattle's roastery--which opened eight years ago and is one of the stores designed to feature "a selection of the rarest, most extraordinary coffees Starbucks has to offer"--follows the company taking aim at another unionized store in the city last month.

Just days after thousands of unionized Starbucks employees at over 100 locations nationwide walked off the job for a "Red Cup Rebellion," the company announced plans to close the store at 101 Broadway E. and Denny Way in Seattle this month.

While a spokesperson said in November that the move was tied to escalating "safety and security incidents," workers and other critics argue the closure--and others in the Emerald City this year--is in retaliation for employees voting to unionize.

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