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Starbucks files NLRB complaints against baristas union


Michelle Eisen is a barista from the Buffalo Elmwood Starbucks. This was the first Starbuck store to organize. Michelle assists the Starbucks Workers United employees at their local Starbucks as they meet at a union hall in Mesa to vote to unionize.

Ross D. Franklin | AP

StarbucksTwo complaints were filed Wednesday with the National Labor Relations Board alleging the union that organized its baristas violated federal law.

The coffee chain is the first to be accused of lawbreaking behaviour in the Union battle.

Workers United is an affiliate of Service Employees International Union. It has filed dozens more complaints against Starbucks at the NLRB. The complaint alleges that Starbucks has unlawfully retaliated against and harassed organizers in coffee shops across the country.

Similar complaints were filed by the government agency against Starbucks. They allege that it fired organizers and threatened workers in Phoenix. Starbucks denied any allegations of union busting.

Workers United has filed unionization paperwork for more than 200 locations of this coffee chain since August. 24 of the coffee chain’s locations have registered to vote for unionization. Only two stores have rejected this initiative so far.

Starbucks has filed complaints with the NLRB alleging that Workers United “unlawfully restricted and coerced” partners in exercise of rights. They cite incidents which occurred in two Phoenix cafes.

Starbucks claims that union organizers blocked access to the stores and made threats against the baristas.

According to the complaint, organizers shouted at customers as well and struck cars with picket signs while they attempted to get into and out of Denver’s location. However, the complaint does not specify when the incident took place. Workers at the Denver café named in the file staged a strike March 11, to protest unfair working conditions.

Starbucks Workers United didn’t immediately reply to CNBC’s request for comment.

According to the filings, the Phoenix cafe mentioned is also the one that was at the heart of the NLRB complaints about Starbucks.

Rossann Williams (president of Starbucks North American operations), wrote to employees in a letter viewed by CNBC.

“I want every partner to know we respect and honor all their rights — the right to choose a union, and the right to choose to speak for themselves,” Williams added.