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NLRB Getting Involved in Starbucks Campaign

Richard Bensinger, left, who is advising unionization efforts, along with baristas Casey Moore, right, Brian Murray, second from left, and Jaz Brisack, second from right, discuss their efforts to unionize three Buffalo-area stores, inside the movements headquarters on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021 in Buffalo, N.Y. Workers at three Starbucks stores in Buffalo will hold union elections next month after winning a case before the National Labor Relations Board. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson).

Starbucks is engaging in a frantic attempt to stop the unionization of their shops all of a sudden happening across the nation. This has included the illegal firing and discipline of workers for joining the union. Now the National Labor Relations Board is intervening.

The National Labor Relations Board has accused Starbucks of retaliating against two employees who sought to unionize their coffee shop in Phoenix, according to a complaint reviewed by The Washington Post.

The NLRB typically issues formal complaints after it investigates accusations brought against employers and finds merit in them. In this case, two Phoenix Starbucks workers brought a raft of allegations against the company, including retaliation, making threats and changing the conditions of employment for individuals who were engaged in “concerted activity,” which is protected under national labor policy.

The two employees, Laila Dalton and Alyssa Sanchez, were contributing to a national campaign that has set up unions at a handful of Starbucks stores across the country. Starbucks Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, has brought at least a dozen charges on behalf of baristas across the country alleging similar acts of retaliation, according to NLRB case dockets.

If the NLRB prevails in its case, Starbucks could be required to read statements and post physical notices in its stores informing workers of their right to organize, a common remedy in labor retaliation cases. It could also be required to reimburse Sanchez for the hours she lost out on because of Starbucks’s alleged retaliation. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for June 14.

In the complaint, the NLRB accused two Starbucks managers of suspending Dalton and giving her a written warning, as well as rejecting Sanchez’s scheduling preferences as a way of discouraging them from raising concerns with managers.

The NLRB is not exactly the swiftest organization and its power to really punish employers is pretty limited. But this intervention also is a clear message to Starbucks that it is going to have to play by the rules. That alone is really important.

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