Starbucks has displayed “egregious and widespread misconduct” in its dealings with employees involved in efforts to unionize Buffalo, New York, stores, a National Labor Relations Board judge said in an order Wednesday.
As a result, the company must reinstate and make whole a number of workers who were let go from locations in or around Buffalo, among other remedies, NLRB administrative law judge Michael Rosas said.
The case includes 32 unfair labor charges made by Workers United against the company for its actions between August 2021 and July 2022 at 21 stores in the Buffalo area, including the first Starbucks location to unionize.
The company, which has been facing a wave of unionization across the country since December 2021, must also post a notice in its stores nationally, the judge ruled. That notice informs workers that they have the right to join a union, and lays out a lengthy list of what the company will refrain from doing, like surveilling workers or making other efforts to dissuade union activity.
Rosas also said that interim CEO Howard Schultz and another company leader must read the notice to employees, or be present at a meeting where the rights are read.
Schultz, who will soon hand over the reins to incoming CEO Laxman Narasimhan, has been a vocal opponent of the union since he rejoined the company as interim CEO last year.
“I don’t think a union has a place in Starbucks,” Schultz recently told CNN’s Poppy Harlow. If workers “file for a petition to be unionized, they have a right to do so. But we as a company have a right also to say, we have a different vision that is better,” he said.
Schultz recently declined a request from US Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and the rest of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to testify in an upcoming hearing on Starbucks’ compliance with labor laws. Starbucks said its chief public affairs officer AJ Jones II will attend instead.
For union leaders, Wednesday’s order was a win.
“This is truly a historic ruling,” Gary Bonadonna Jr., manager of the Rochester Regional Joint Board of Workers United, SEIU, said in a statement issued by Starbucks Workers United. “We will not rest until every Starbucks worker wins the right to organize.”
Michelle Eisen, a worker who was among those that Starbucks must make whole according to Wednesday’s order, said “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.”
Both parties have until March 28 to appeal the decision, according to the NLRB.
Starbucks said in a statement that it is “considering all options to obtain further legal review,” adding that “we believe the decision and the remedies ordered are inappropriate given the record in this matter.”