Starbucks Charged With Violating Labor Relations Act

A judge determined this week that Starbucks managers in Wisconsin had unlawfully threatened to withhold the abortion travel benefits that were promised to employees if they unionized. Administrative law judge Charles Muhl said in his letter that the Starbucks managers had broken Section 8 of the National Labor Relations Act, which prohibits employers from using violent or forceful language or threatening employees to prevent them from exercising their right to vote to recognize a union.

A Starbucks location in West Allis, Wisconsin, submitted a petition to the NLRB in June 2022 asking for union recognition. Two months later, the union retracted the petition. Following that, a worker submitted an email requesting that the CEO, Howard Schultz, and the shop manager acknowledge the union as their representation in negotiations.

The store manager confronted the worker about the email, telling her that the union would negatively affect the store and that it wasn’t necessary. The worker claimed that management threatened to withhold benefits such as a scheduled salary raise, the opportunity to work at other nearby stores, and reimbursement for abortion-related travel expenses if the store’s employees unionized.

Although it may not desire a union, Starbucks has denied violating any labor rules with the remarks and conduct of its management. It also did not impair worker rights. The business is considering its options after reading Administrative Law Judge Charles J. Muhl’s suggested ruling.

The labor decision was made after Starbucks pledged to pay its employees’ abortion-related travel expenses after the Supreme Court struck down the country’s abortion rights in 2022. After the high court’s decision was leaked, Starbucks was among the first companies to include the procedure’s travel expenses in employee benefits. The business is launching “one of the most aggressive, anti-union campaigns in decades,” referencing the NLRB’s conclusions that Starbucks had retaliated against unionizing employees by firing them illegally and in other ways.

Starbucks has categorically refuted allegations that it is purposefully hindering employees’ attempts to form unions and has denied breaking labor laws. Additionally, it argues that a union would sour relations between management and staff.