Starbucks employee was fired illegally, labor board judge promises | Starbucks

Starbucks illegally fired an employee at one of the coffee giant’s stores in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for participating in union activism, a National Labor Relations Board judge ruled Friday.

The decision requires Starbucks to offer the worker reinstatement with back pay and to hold a meeting with employees, management, government representatives and the union to clarify the workers’ rights and confirm the board’s conclusion that the company violated the law.

“I hope they learn their lesson that firing people because they want to start a union is not going to solve their problems,” fired employee Hannah Whitbeck told Bloomberg in an interview. “In fact, it will only make it worse.”

The ruling comes amid a series of disputes between the coffee chain and Workers United, a labor group that organizes for unionization at Starbucks stores across the country. Starbucks has said the company’s claims of anti-union activity are “categorically false” and has denied wrongdoing in Whitbeck’s case.

In Friday’s decision, the NLRB judge wrote, according to Bloomberg, that the board’s general counsel had shown that Starbucks “acted with animus” when it fired the employee who had participated in efforts to organize the store in question. Starbucks has not indicated whether it plans to appeal.

The union that represents employees, Starbucks Workers United, has accused the company of firing more than 80 employees because of their activism. The Starbucks union has won 220 election victories out of about 9,000 company-owned U.S. stores in the past year.

Starbucks store workers — or “partners” — who support union efforts have said they are underpaid, undertrained and mistreated. These claims have been largely denied by the company.

“From the beginning, we have been clear in our belief that we do not want a merger between us as partners, and that belief has not changed,” Starbucks vice president Rossann Williams said in a statement last year. “Our hope is that union representatives also come to the table with mutual good faith, respect and positive intentions.”

Separately, the NLRB said last week that petitions for union representation rose 53% in fiscal year 2022 compared to 2021 — the highest number since 2016.

The board said employees are turning to established and independent unions in an effort to resolve a range of workplace issues, including wages, benefits and pandemic health and safety concerns.

“Given the increase in case intake we are seeing in the field, we can expect even more cases to come before the Board in fiscal year 2023,” NLRB Chair Lauren McFerran said in a statement.

The NLRB said 2,510 union petitions were filed in the fiscal year through September, up from 1,638 in the same period a year earlier. Unfair labor practice charges filed with NLRB offices rose 19%, the agency added.

Although union efforts at Starbucks and Amazon have received the most public attention, a number of labor drives from other, sometimes unexpected, quarters have joined them.

In a memo Thursday, the NRLB said 30 dancers at a topless bar in Hollywood, Calif., would vote next month on whether to join the Actors Equity Association, a union representing 51,000 professional actors and stage managers.

Dancers at Star Garden Topless Dive Bar have been protesting for months for better working conditions, including higher wages, access to benefits, better security and safer stages.

If a majority of the dancers vote to organize, they will become the only organized group of strippers in the United States. Strippers previously organized at San Francisco’s Lusty Lady under the Exotic Dancers Union in 1996. The Lusty Lady closed in 2013.

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