Starbucks is facing pressure to rehire seven Buffalo employees who federal labor officials say were “unlawfully fired for exercising their right to form a union.”
However, it’s a claim that Starbucks has repeatedly denied and plans to defend.
The National Labor Relations Board’s Buffalo Regional Director Linda M. Leslie petitioned in the United States District Court for injunctive relief for the former Starbucks employees who worked at five different locations across Buffalo.
After learning about unionizing efforts, the coffee giant “set its vigorous antiunion campaign in motion,” the labor board said Wednesday.
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The company employed an “expansive array of illegal tactics” including raising wages, promising benefits, bringing in a cadre of managers to monitor employees and discourage union activity, closing stores with active organizing drives, and threatening employees, the labor board continued.
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This culminated in the firing of seven employees within a six-week period, the labor board said.
Meanwhile, Starbucks, as it has repeatedly expressed, told FOX Business that “these claims are false” and is “prepared to defend our case.”
Aside from rehiring the seven Buffalo-area workers, the labor board is also seeking a national cease and desist order for all Starbucks across the country as well as a bargaining order for the Camp Road store.
The labor board can issue a bargaining order in the absence of a union election if there was evidence that a majority of employees have supported union representation on authorization cards.
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“Absent immediate interim relief, Starbucks will achieve its goal, through unlawful means, of irreparably harming the campaign in Buffalo, and sending a clear chilling message to its employees across the country,” Leslie said in a statement.
This is the third time the board has fought to rehire Starbucks employees. In May, the labor board asked the United States District Court to rehire seven Memphis Starbucks workers who officials say were unlawfully fired for exercising their right to unionize.
It came just a month after officials fought to rehire three employees who were allegedly fired for unionizing efforts in Phoenix. However, a judge dismissed the injunction by the labor board to reinstate the Phoenix workers, the labor board confirmed.
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Still, Starbucks Workers United, which is leading the union push nationwide, said in a statement that the board’s move on Wednesday “is an important step in holding Starbucks Interim CEO Howard Schultz accountable for his assault against workers exercising their fundamental right to organize.”
There’s been a wave of unionization drives at Starbucks stores nationwide, with the first union votes coming in December at three stores in Buffalo.
To date, 300 Starbucks stores have filed for union elections across 35 states, according to Starbucks Workers United, which is leading the union push.