Thursday, December 14, 2023

Federal Regulators Seek to Force Starbucks to Reopen 23 Stores. (NY Times)

Firing, or the capital punishment of the workplace, is a common response among unethical employers who can't stand criticism.  Under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, we adopted the Wagner Act (National Labor Relations Act) to protect worker rights from the sort of sordid abuses that Starbucks is perpetrating against their employees.  An educated workforce will resist such Social Darwinist approaches to labor-management relations, which are all too common. From The New York Times:

Federal Regulators Seek to Force Starbucks to Reopen 23 Stores

The National Labor Relations Board says the locations were closed because of union organizing, violating federal law.

The exterior of a Starbucks store, with a drive-through and outdoor seating.
Starbucks has faced union campaigns at hundreds of stores since 2021. It has defended its labor practices.Credit...Adam Davis/EPA, via Shutterstock
The exterior of a Starbucks store, with a drive-through and outdoor seating.

Noam Scheiber has covered the Starbucks union campaign since it began in 2021.

Federal labor regulators accused Starbucks on Wednesday of illegally closing 23 stores to suppress organizing activity and sought to force the company to reopen them.

A complaint issued by a regional office of the National Labor Relations Board argued that Starbucks had closed the stores because its employees engaged in union activities or to discourage employees from doing so. At least seven of the 23 stores identified had unionized.

The complaint consolidated cases that arose from locations across the country. It is the latest in a series of accusations by federal officials that Starbucks has broken the law during a two-year labor campaign.

The matter is scheduled to go before an administrative judge next summer unless Starbucks settles it earlier. In addition to asking the judge to order the stores reopened, the complaint wants employees to be compensated for the loss of earnings or benefits and for other costs they incurred as a result of the closures.

According to Wednesday’s complaint, Starbucks managers announced the closing of 16 stores in July 2022, then announced several more closures over the next few months.

An administrative judge previously ruled that Starbucks had illegally closed a unionized store in Ithaca, N.Y., and ordered workers reinstated with back pay, but the company has appealed that decision.

The new complaint was issued on the same day that Starbucks released a nonconfidential version of an outside assessment of whether its practices align with its stated commitment to labor rights. The company’s shareholders had voted to back the assessment in a nonbinding vote whose results were announced in March.

The author of the report, Thomas M. Mackall, a former management-side lawyer and labor relations official at the food and facilities management company Sodexo, wrote that he “found no evidence of an ‘anti-union playbook’ or instructions or training about how to violate U.S. laws.”

But Mr. Mackall concluded that Starbucks officials involved in responding to the union campaign did not appear to understand how the company’s Global Human Rights Statement might constrain their response. The rights statement commits Starbucks to respecting employees’ freedom of association and participation in collective bargaining.

Mr. Mackall cited managers’ “allegedly unlawful promises and threats” and “allegedly discriminatory or retaliatory discipline and discharge” as areas where Starbucks could improve.

In a letter tied to the report’s release, the chair of the company’s board and an independent director said the assessment was clear that “Starbucks has had no intention to deviate from the principles of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.” At the same time, the letter added, “there are things the company can, and should, do to improve its stated commitments and its adherence to these important principles.”

Noam Scheiber is a Chicago-based reporter who covers workers and the workplace. He spent nearly 15 years at The New Republic, where he covered economic policy and three presidential campaigns. He is the author of “The Escape Artists.” More about Noam Scheiber

No comments: