Starbucks calls on labor board to suspend union mail-in votes

The NLRB workers in question “engaged in highly improper systemic misconduct involving Starbucks and Workers United,” the company’s general counsel wrote in a letter to the NLRB. Starbucks said an NLRB whistleblower alerted the company to the alleged misconduct.

Starbucks tried to fend off a growing unionization movement for several months now. On Friday, the NLRB certified votes to unionize at 199 Starbucks stores and votes against unionizing at 36 stores. So far, there have been election petitions in a total of 314 stores.

Starbucks accuses NLRB employees of allowing some pro-union workers to vote in person, although it was decided that ballots would be submitted by mail. Some workers missed the deadline to vote by mail but weren’t given the opportunity to vote in person, Starbucks alleged, encourage a pro-union result.

The coffee chain also alleged that NLRB workers gave the union information such as the date and number of ballots received in the mail.

“In light of these types of misconduct by NLRB staff, we are asking the Board to immediately suspend all Starbucks mail-in elections nationwide…until there is a full investigation” , Starbucks said in the letter.

Starbucks is asking that the results of a board-led investigation into the alleged misconduct be made public and that “safeguards to prevent future misconduct” be put in place before moving forward. In the future, he wants the elections to be held in person.

“The NLRB does not comment on open cases,” Kayla Blado, director and press secretary for the NLRB’s Congressional and Public Affairs Office, said in a statement about the letter.

“The agency has well-established processes to address challenges around handling election issues and unfair labor practice cases,” she said. “These challenges should be raised in documents specific to the particular issues in question.” Blado noted that all issues raised in these channels would be “carefully and objectively” reviewed by the board.

Stores voting to unionize represent just a fraction of the approximately 9,000 stores operated by the company Starbucks (SEX) stores in the United States. However, Starbucks took the effort seriously.
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Starbucks has made it clear that it wants a direct line of communication with employees and that a union will stand in the way. He said he cannot guarantee that workers in a trade union will have access to certain benefits offered to non-unionized employees. And in May, Starbucks said it was worried that the White House left him out a meeting with union representatives.

Union organizers say the coffee chain acted unfairly and the NLRB’s letter is another example of the company’s bad faith.

“This is Starbucks once again trying to deflect attention from its unprecedented anti-union campaign,” Starbucks Workers United said in a statement. “Ultimately, this is Starbucks’ latest attempt to manipulate the legal process for its own purposes and prevent workers from exercising their fundamental right to organize.” Starbucks says it respects the right of employees to seek a union.

The NLRB also accused the company to unfairly punish workers who want to unionize. The board said Friday that it is currently handling 284 unfair labor practice cases against Starbucks, not all of which are necessarily related to campaign petitions.

In the letter, Starbucks noted that “the NLRB’s General Counsel and other Board staff have repeatedly stated that Starbucks has committed more than one hundred ‘unfair labor practice’ violations”, but that “these statements are contradicted by the fact that the Commission to date has made no finding regarding the merits of any violation by Starbucks.”

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