Starbucks is calling for all union elections in their cafes to be paused after accusing the National Labor Relations Board of misconduct.
In a letter to the NLRB dated Monday, the coffee retailer accused the board of working with Workers United, the union representing Starbucks employees, to help them win union votes by manipulating the election process.
“The regional staff, and, ultimately, the Board — will carefully and objectively consider any challenges raised through these established channels,” NLRB spokesperson Kayla Blado said in a statement.
Starbucks representatives say they discovered the misconduct, which apparently took place during a Kansas City, Kansas, union vote, through a whistleblower inside the NLRB. The company alleges that similar misconduct happened in unionization drives in Seattle and Buffalo.
Starbucks claims that the NLRB set up in-person voting at its offices, as opposed to mail-in ballots, and collaborated with Workers United by relaying voter information to them in real-time.
“If the NLRB does not respond by investigating and remedying these types of actions, we do not see how the Board can represent itself as a neutral agency adjudicating unfair labor practice disputes — and elections,” the letter reads.
Workers United categorized Starbucks’ allegations as desperate and malicious.
“Ultimately, this is Starbucks’ latest attempt to manipulate the legal process for their own means and prevent workers from exercising their fundamental right to organize,” Workers United said in a statement.
Regardless of the accuracy of the Starbucks letter, the union drives in many locations will be slowed, which analysts say is the goal of the accusations.
The letter comes as an unprecedented number of Starbucks locations are organizing. Over the past year, 216 locations in the U.S. have voted to unionize. At the same time, other large retailers like Amazon and Trader Joe’s also have seen a rise in worker organization.
During the most recent surge in union activity, Starbucks has come under fire for several decisions, including last month when CEO Howard Schultz announced it would be closing several stores around the country for “safety concerns”.
Workers United at the time called those closings another attempt to shut down the unionization movement.
Workers in several Starbucks locations have, in recent weeks, started to strike, citing pay, hours, safety and other issues at locations in California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington.
• Vaughn Cockayne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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