The National Labor Relations Board sued coffeehouse chain Starbucks for allegedly retaliating against three employees involved in organizing a union.
A worker was disciplined, suspended and fired; another was “implicitly terminated” and a third was placed on unpaid leave after the company revoked “recently granted accommodations”, the NLRB said in a press release.
Cornele Overstreet, director of the Phoenix-based NLRB region, asked the U.S. District Court in a filing on Friday to immediately reinstate the employees to their regular hours and accommodations, among other demands.
“Employees have a fundamental right to choose whether or not they want to be represented by the union without compulsion or coercion from their employer,” Overstreet said in a statement.
“The confidence of Starbucks employees nationwide in workplace democracy will not be restored unless these employees are immediately reinstated under the protection of a federal court order,” he said. added.
In a statement to NPR, Starbucks said it “totally disagrees[s]” with the claims made by the labor board in the lawsuit.
“These partners were terminated because they violated our established policies. In some cases, they also violated state law,” a Starbucks spokesperson said. “A partner’s interest in union representation does not exempt them from the standards we have in place to protect the partners, customers and communities we serve.” Starbucks refers to its employees as “partners”.
The company said it also filed two unfair labor practice charges against the Workers United union to “protect the physical safety and emotional well-being” of employees and customers.
Starbucks said it also wanted to “make it clear that the bullying, bullying and harassment that we are seeing from some union organizers is not acceptable.”
For its part, Workers United says it has filed 80 of its own unfair labor practice charges against Starbucks across the country. “The truth is that Starbucks is clinging to straws as they launch an aggressive and unprecedented union busting campaign against workers, including firing more than 19 union leaders across the country,” a union spokesperson said. in a statement to NPR.
Twenty-eight Starbucks stores across the country voted to form a union out of 31 stores that voted, according to Workers United. More than 220 in 31 states have called for union elections.