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Starbucks asks labor council to suspend postal union election over voter misconduct

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Starbucks is asking the federal labor council to suspend all post-in-vote elections nationwide, over misconduct in the voting process by the council’s staff and the union that organizes its baristas.

The Seattle-based coffee giant wrote in a letter to the chairman and general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board on Monday that Labor Board officials acted improperly during an election in the Kansas City area and likely did the same in other elections. Starbucks named a career NLRB professional who approached the company as a whistleblower.

More than 220 Starbucks cafes across the US voted to unionize, according to a Friday NLRB count. 34 additional elections have been ordered or are underway, and seven more stores are waiting to schedule elections.

NLRB spokeswoman Kayla Blado said in a statement to UKTN that the agency has established processes for raising challenges related to the handling of election matters and unfair labor practices.

“Those challenges need to be posed in files specific to the specific cases at hand,” Blado said. She said the board is not commenting on open cases.

In a statement to UKTN, Starbucks Workers United said Starbucks is trying to divert attention from its anti-union activities and halt union elections.

“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,” the campaign said.

In addition to asking for a pause for all scheduled mail-in elections at its US stores, Starbucks is also asking that all future elections be held in person while the allegations can be investigated.

According to Starbucks, NLRB officials have reportedly coordinated with union agents to ensure personal voting at labor council offices during ...al ballot elections. The company also claims that Workers United employees were given confidential, real-time information about specific vote counts so that the union could target workers who had not yet voted. NLRB officials and Workers United would then have coordinated to cover up this activity, the company said.

The Starbucks letter contains email correspondence that allegedly took place between union representatives and labor council officials. The company said it had been made aware of the contents of the emails by the whistleblower.

Starbucks said similar behavior has taken place in elections in Seattle and Buffalo, New York.

“Until a thorough investigation is carried out, it is a mystery how many elections in how many other regions have been similarly infected,” the company said in the letter.

Under interim CEO Howard Schultz, Starbucks has more aggressively opposed union efforts at its locations. So far, the number of union cafes is a small fraction of Starbucks’ nearly 9,000 cafes, but the coffee chain has worked to curb union momentum.

For example, Starbucks announced a new round of pay increases for permanent employees in May, but said the changes wouldn’t apply to union locations, as they would have to go through the negotiation process. Earlier this month, Workers United formally asked the company to extend pay increases to those locations.

Starbucks is also facing 284 allegations of unfair labor practices from the union, according to the NLRB. Allegations of misconduct by the company include allegations that it has illegally fired organizers, closed shops or harassed its employees to prevent baristas from unionizing. Starbucks has denied all claims of union breakdown.

The company filed two lawsuits of its own against union organizers in Phoenix and Denver with the labor council. The NLRB rejected Phoenix’s claim, saying there was not enough evidence that union workers harassed colleagues and customers during a meeting.

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