By Dee-Ann Durbin
A federal labor judge has ordered Starbucks to reinstate seven fired workers, reopen a shuttered location and stop infringing on workers’ rights after finding that the company violated labor laws “hundreds of times” during a unionization campaign in Buffalo, New York.
The decision issued late Wednesday by Administrative Law Judge Michael Rosas of the National Labor Relations Board requires Starbucks to post a 13-page notice listing its labor violations and workers’ rights in all U.S. stores.
The order also requires Starbucks’ interim CEO Howard Schultz to read or be present at a reading of employees’ rights and distribute a recording of the reading to all of Starbucks’ U.S. employees.
Rosas cited Starbucks’ “egregious and widespread misconduct” in his 200-page decision, which consolidated 35 unfair labor practice complaints at 21 Buffalo-area stores filed by Starbucks Workers United, the labor union organizing Starbucks’ stores. Rosas found that Starbucks had threatened employees, spied on them and more strictly enforced dress codes and other policies.
The order requires Starbucks to reinstate seven workers who were fired for their union activity and provide financial restitution for 27 other workers for violations like refusing to grant time off. It also requires Starbucks to bargain with the union at multiple stores and reopen a location in Cheektowaga, New York, that was closed amid significant union activity.
Starbucks said Wednesday it believes the decision and the remedies ordered are inappropriate and is considering its legal options. The parties in the case have until March 28 to file an appeal to the full National Labor Relations Board.
Starbucks said the individuals in the case were fired for clear violations of the company’s policies, and not because of union activities.
But union supporters were elated with the ruling, saying it will help energize their campaign.
"This decision results from months of tireless organizing by workers in cafes across the country demanding better working conditions in the face of historical, monumental, and now deemed illegal union-busting,” said Michelle Eisen, a Starbucks barista and union organizer in Buffalo.
Eisen's store voted to unionize in late 2021, the first Starbucks in decades to take that step. At least 289 of Starbucks’ 9,000 company-owned U.S. stores have voted to unionize since then.
Workers are seeking better pay, improved training and more consistent schedules, among other things. The company says it already provides industry-leading benefits and believes its stores function best when it works directly with employees.
The ruling came on the same day that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent, announced an upcoming vote that could force Shultz to testify about the union campaign before the Senate's labor committee.