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January 27, 2023

Labor complaint filed against Starbucks for alleged union-busting at two Philly locations

Store managers at 20th and Market Streets and 34th and Walnut Streets reduced working hours for baristas in order to discourage them from organizing, the NLRB said

The National Labor Relations Board has filed a complaint against Starbucks after investigating allegations of union-busting at two Philadelphia store locations. 

Store managers at the 20th and Market Street location and the 34th and Walnut Street location allegedly reduced workers' hours in an effort to discourage participation with Starbucks Workers United, according to a complaint filed on Jan. 23. The NLRB has also alleged that Starbucks has been consistently failing to bargain with unionized team members, which is a direct violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

After conducting an investigation into the union-busting charges, the NLRB will be pursuing civil prosecution of the Seattle-based coffee chain for violations of federal labor law. As part of its complaint, the NLRB is seeking written apologies to two Starbucks employees who claim they were wrongfully terminated, reinstatement and complete reimbursement for damages resulting from the firings. 

In addition, the NLRB is looking to add at least an hour of training for each Starbucks store manager and supervisor on employee rights covered under the National Labor Relations Act. All notices from these legal proceedings will be distributed to all employees across the United States. 

"Initially, I feel relief that the NLRB has found merit in my case against Starbucks, and I genuinely want to thank the hard-working people behind the scenes at the NLRB who are doing their best," Alexandra Rosa, a former shift supervisor at the 20th and Market Street location named in the complaint, said in a press release. "On the flip side, it's frustrating that Starbucks, as a corporation, was able to completely destabilize my life and livelihood, and not just me, but many other folks across the country." 

This is not the first time that the NLRB has lodged a complaint against the coffee chain for unfair labor practices in its Philadelphia stores. In 2019, two baristas at the Broad and Washington Avenue location were attempting to organize and unionize when they were fired. They filed a complaint over illegal firing with the NLRB, refusing a $100,000 cash settlement from the corporation in order to take the case to trial, the Inquirer reported. 

In 2021, an administrative law judge ruled in favor of the NLRB and ordered Starbucks to reinstate the workers with back pay. The workers have yet to be reinstated or receive their pay, as Starbucks is working on an appeal to the case. 

"We disagree with the merits of the complaint and maintain that actions at our Philadelphia area stores were in full alignment with established policies and the National Labor Relations Act," said Andrew Trull, senior manager of communications for Starbucks. "We look forward to a full legal review of the matter as we work side-by-side with our partners to deliver the Starbucks experience and reinvent our company for the future." 

Starbucks remains confident that it has fully honored the process laid out by the NLRB and says it is committed to Starbucks partners' rights to engage in lawful labor activities. The company further claimed that one of the individuals cited in the complaint was fired after violating the company's health and safety guidelines, while another voluntarily resigned. 

The corporation has until Feb. 7 to respond to the complaint before a hearing with an administrative law judge on Feb. 13. 

The 20th and Market Street and 34th and Walnut Street stores are two of five Starbucks locations in Philadelphia that have unionized in recent years, as a national organizing movement has spread across the country. More than 270 stores have voted to unionize, representing about 3% of the coffee chain's 9,000 U.S. locations. 

The company announced in July that it would close 16 of its stores due to safety concerns, including a busy location that was previously located at 10th and Chestnut Streets near Jefferson University Hospital. Workers at six Seattle stores that were shuttered expressed disappointment in their lack of voice in their own working conditions before the stores were shut down. 

Starbucks Workers United has held two national strikes in the last several months, including a three-day strike from Dec. 16-18 and a one-day strike on Red Cup Day. More than 1,000 workers at Starbucks locations across the country took part in each of the strikes as a protest over what they say is Starbucks' refusal to bargain on a contract. 

Workers have filed at least 446 unfair labor practice charges against Starbucks since the large-scale unionization effort began in 2021. The company has filed 47 complaints against workers, alleging that the union defied bargaining rules by recording sessions and posting them online, the Associated Press reported.