On Friday, CNBC reported that Starbucks is facing a sweeping labor complaint from the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board in Buffalo, New York, including 200 allegations of illegal union-busting tactics, as stores around the country begin organizing.
"The complaint stems from claims made by Starbucks Workers United against the company in Buffalo, where the union organizing effort began in August," reported Kate Rogers. "In the complaint, viewed by CNBC, the NLRB accuses Starbucks of interfering with, restraining and coercing employees seeking to unionize in various ways. The regional office of the independent federal agency said the coffee giant threatened and intimidated workers by closing down stores in the area, reduced workers’ compensation, enforced policies against union supporters in a discriminatory way, engaged in surveillance and fired workers, among other alleged violations."
"The complaint also notes high-ranking Starbucks officials made 'unprecedented and repeated' visits to Buffalo and held mandatory anti-union meetings, noting that leaders, including CEO Howard Schultz, had promised an increase in benefits if workers refrained from organizing," the report continued. "Buffalo has been at the center of the union drive. The city is home to the first store to vote yes on organizing in December and sparked a movement that spread across the country."
As of May, over 50 Starbucks locations have voted to unionize, including the company's flagship roastery in Seattle.
Schultz, who mounted a short-lived independent campaign for president in 2020 before returning to Starbucks as interim CEO, has tried to crack down hard on union organizing. He has claimed the company is "being assaulted" by unionization efforts, and in one strange speech, he compared unionizing workers to Holocaust prisoners being made to share blankets.
President Joe Biden has signaled his support for the union drives; he and Vice President Kamala Harris took the highly unusual step of inviting the union organizers to the White House for a meeting. Starbucks has criticized this meeting, demanding the president invite representatives from the company to the White House as well to tell their side of the story.