The NLRB employees in question “were involved in highly inappropriate, systematic misconduct involving Starbucks and Workers United,” the company’s general counsel wrote in a letter to the NLRB. Starbucks said a whistleblower from NLRB had notified the company of the alleged misconduct.
Starbucks has been trying to fend off a growing union movement for several months. As of Friday, the NLRB certified to unionize 199 Starbucks stores and to unionize 36. So far, a total of 314 stores have submitted election requests.
Starbucks accuses NLRB employees that some union workers were allowed to vote in person, even though it was decided that the ballots would be submitted by mail. Some employees missed the deadline to vote by mail but were not given the opportunity to vote in person, Starbucks claimed. encourage a pro-union outcome.
The coffee chain also claimed that NLRB employees had provided the union with information such as when and how many ballots they received in the mail.
“In light of this type of misconduct by NLRB personnel, we request that the Board of Directors immediately suspend all Starbucks mail voting elections nationwide…until there has been a thorough investigation,” Starbucks said in the letter.
Starbucks is asking that the results of an investigation by the board of directors into the alleged misconduct be made public and that “guarantees be put in place to prevent future misconduct” before moving forward. In the future, it wants the elections to be held in person.
“The NLRB does not comment on pending matters,” Kayla Blado, director and press secretary of the NLRB Office for Congresses and Public Affairs, said in a statement about the letter.
“The agency has established processes to address challenges related to handling both electoral issues and cases of unfair labor practices,” she said. “Those challenges need to be addressed in dossiers specific to the specific cases in question.” Blado noted that any questions raised in these channels will be considered “carefully and objectively” by the board.
Stores that vote to unionize are only a fraction of the roughly 9,000 businesses the company controls Starbucks (SBUX) stores in the United States. Starbucks, however, takes the effort seriously.
Starbucks has made it clear that it wants a direct line of communication with employees and that a union would stand in the way. It has said it cannot guarantee unionized workers have access to certain benefits offered to non-union workers. And in May, Starbucks said it was concerned that the White House had omitted it from a meeting with union representatives.
Union organizers say the coffee chain has acted unfairly and that the NLRB letter is another example of the company acting in bad faith.
“This is Starbucks again trying to divert attention from their unprecedented anti-union campaign,” Starbucks Workers United said in a statement. “Ultimately, this is Starbucks’ latest attempt to manipulate the legal process for their own resources and prevent employees from exercising their fundamental right to organize.” Starbucks says it respects workers’ right to unionize.
The NLRB has also accused the company of unfairly punishing employees who want to join a union. The board said Friday it is currently handling 284 cases of unfair labor practices against Starbucks, not all of which are necessarily related to election petitions.
In the letter, Starbucks noted that “the NLRB General Counsel and other board personnel have repeatedly stated that Starbucks has violated more than a hundred ‘unfair employment practices'”, but that “these statements are contradicted by the fact that the Council has not made any finding as to the merits of a Starbucks violation.”