Starbucks CEO may be forced to read workers their labor rights after company illegally blocked raises for union workers: report
Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, speaking with attendees at an event titled "From the Ground Up" at the Student Pavilion at Arizona State University. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

According to The Washington Post, the National Labor Relations Board is seeking changes at Starbucks after finding the company illegally blocked raises and benefits from workers who formed unions at their stores.

"The complaint arrives during a campaign by the coffee chain and its interim CEO, Howard Schultz, to tamp down unionization efforts at its stores around the United States. More than 230 locations have voted to join the Starbucks Workers United union since late 2021, driving a surge in unionization nationwide," reported Lauren Kaori Gurley. "The NLRB seeks back payments and benefits for unionized workers since May and to require Schultz to read a statement to workers about their union rights. The board, which is tasked with enforcing labor laws that protect union rights, said Starbucks’s denial of benefits and raises to union workers was intended to discourage union organizing."

Starbucks denies having broken the law in any way. However, the NLRB's report includes a number of damning allegations, including that nonunion workers received raises of 3 to 7 percent, equipment upgrades that made it easier for customers to tip baristas by credit card, more sick leave, and a relaxed dress code — while workers in unionized stores received none of these.

This comes after Starbucks Workers United has also alleged the company has fired more than 85 workers engaged in union activity, which has led to dozens of strikes being held in protest. Leaked videos have appeared to show Schultz encouraging these efforts.

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"The labor board is also requesting that Starbucks provide a copy of all payroll records, time cards and personnel reports so that it can analyze the amount of back pay owed to workers," said the report. "The remedy outlined by the complaint would require that the company send apology letters to all affected baristas and conduct a training for managers and supervisors on workers’ rights and labor law. Starbucks can try to settle the case. Otherwise, an administrative law judge will hold a hearing on the matter Oct. 25."

Schultz, who gained national attention with an brief, ill-fated independent run for president in 2019 during which he complained it was offensive to call him a "billionaire," has drawn controversy for claiming Starbucks is being "assaulted" by unionization, and even comparing the company to a railcar full of Holocaust prisoners.