Injunction Shows NLRB Fed Up With Starbucks Labor Violation – People’s World

A customer makes a purchase at a Starbucks coffee shop. | Matt Rourke/AP

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A federal judge’s injunction against Starbucks, ordering bosses to rehire seven workers illegally fired for organizing the coffee chain’s store in Memphis, Tenn., is an indication that the National Labor Relations Board has more more fed up with the company. constant and brutal violation of labor laws.

In fact, the board is so infuriated that Buffalo regional manager Linda Leslie filed a petition earlier this year in federal court for a nationwide 10(d) injunction — her toughest penalty — against the practices of endemic unfair labor of the chain of monsters, the official name of the violation of labor law. Leslie said her traditional remedies against corporate wrongdoers could not undo the damage.

Starbucks’ violation of the law does not prevent Workers United from winning, store by store, either. He is running, on behalf of local workers, for 360 union recognition elections nationwide and unionists have won 211 so far, including five of six in Tennessee. The defeat was an 8-8 draw at Smyrna. The wins included Memphis, 11-3, among 20 workers.

The win came after Starbucks tried to intimidate its baristas into voting “no,” firing all seven. Workers didn’t back down, nor did NLRB general counsel Jennifer Abruzzo. Chief Counsel and Operations Manager.

On August 18, Abruzzo won a 10(j) injunction against Starbucks from U.S. District Judge Sheryl Lipman in Memphis. She ordered Starbucks to take the workers back and uphold labor law by recognizing and negotiating with the union.

“This is a critical step to ensure that these workers, and all Starbucks workers, can freely exercise their right to join together to improve their working conditions and form a union,” Abruzzo said. “Starbucks and other employers should note that the NLRB will continue to vigorously protect the right of workers to organize without interference from their employer.”

Starbucks workers, engaged in a coast-to-coast organizing campaign with the help of Workers United, a sector of service workers, are part of the mass movement of exploited workers on low pay and without benefits who have so far and will no longer take it.

These workers, many of whom are in their 20s and 30s, like Starbucks baristas—turning to multiple avenues of resistance against Starbucks and other greedy giant corporations, while demanding better wages and protections, worker rights and respect in the workplace.

One is unionization, usually on its own with the subsequent help of established unions. A second is the walkouts. When Starbucks in early August suddenly fired the lead organizer of its first store for unionizing, in Buffalo, the entire store left. The dismissal and walkout came after Leslie filed for a nationwide injunction.

And a third is to seek and obtain better jobs, leaving low-wage employers in the lurch.

They also have the backing of one of the nation’s oldest and strongest working class political supporters, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind.-Vt. On August 20, he walked a picket line in Philadelphia and the next day, watched by cameras and reporters, he waved to a large crowd of Massachusetts Starbucks United members picketing a store in Boston. The video is on the SWBUnited Twitter feed.

“After learning of the organizing effort, Starbucks directed a wide variety of enforcement actions against its employees,” the NLRB said in its injunction request to Lipman, which it only uses when remedies are sought. more traditional and weak labor laws do not empower all workers and do not deter companies that break the law. These penalties reinstate terminated workers with clear back wages and display a “we broke the law and promised not to do this again” notice.

In Memphis, Starbucks disciplined the worker who started the organizing drive, instituted tight surveillance of 20 workers, closed the Memphis Starbucks on days when organizers called on the public to show support, and illegally removed pro material -union of the bulletin board of the store.

When all these movements caught the attention of the media, from local television stations to New York Times and the Washington Post, Starbucks fired all seven workers on the same day, including five of the six members of the Memphis organizing committee. It was obvious retaliation, which is also illegal.

Judge Lipman’s 10(j) ruling in Memphis isn’t the NLRB’s only legal decision against the coffeehouse chain, whose CEO Howard Schultz has repeatedly sworn his stores would never unionize.

In its national 10(j) petition, Buffalo Regional Manager Leslie said Starbucks violated labor laws more than 200 times at its Buffalo-area stores and multiple times at a store in Rochester, NY. His breaches of the law included illegally soliciting grievances and promising benefits if workers voted against the union, promising a pay rise if they did, promising – in at least one store – better health benefits mental and promising extensive store renovations at several Starbucks. .

But he also engaged in close surveillance of workers, illegally spied on union activities, illegally interrogated workers who handed out and wore Workers United pins, and closed at least one Buffalo store and another’s coffee shop. And in at least one Buffalo store, a manager threatened workers that they wouldn’t get a raise if they voted for the union.

And on August 16, NLRB regional manager Reginald Hooks in Seattle, Starbucks headquarters, filed a lawsuit against 10 stores against the company for multiple labor law violations in Seattle, Everett and Bellingham. , Washington, and in Portland and Eugene, Ore.

The violation of the law in the “Hi Partner” letters to all workers contained various threats. One was a freeze on wages and benefits until a contract is ratified, along with a warning that “negotiations can often take over a year – if a contract is reached.” And “to maintain a direct relationship with” Starbucks, workers must vote against unionization — a veiled threat to fire those who vote for the union.

Hooks’ remedy is to distribute the no-repetition notice via text, social media and email to all workers employed since April 1, not just post it on store bulletin boards. Hooks also wants mandatory training for Starbucks managers on labor law compliance. He has scheduled a hearing on the case for November 8, election day. It won’t be a problem for workers, Washington and Oregon vote entirely by mail.

Hooks’ complaint is notable for other reasons. It was filed in Starbucks territory, it included five Seattle Starbucks, and it included Schultz’s contact information as a defendant,, and his office address, 2401 Utah Ave. South Suite 800, Seattle, Washington, 98134-1436. This is information consumers can use to protest Starbucks.


Marc Gruenberg

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