Starbucks violated labor law by threatening and questioning Chicago baristas in stores where workers were trying to unionize, local labor board officials alleged in complaints filed against the company. .
The regional director of the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago alleged that Starbucks violated labor law by threatening employees with loss of benefits and wage increases for organizing; question workers about the union; ban workers from wearing union masks and t-shirts; and telling workers the organization was useless, according to a complaint filed Tuesday with the agency.
The complaint involves the coffee giant’s actions at two of its Chicago stores: one in Edgewater, which was one of the first in Chicago to unionize, and another in Palmer Square, where employees voted against forming a union.
Baristas at 1070 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Starbucks voted overwhelmingly to unionize in Mayweeks after the labor board alleged that employees were threatened with loss of benefits and pay raises if they did.
the starbucks union narrowly missed a pick at the 2543 N. California Ave. store in June.
The Chicago regional director also issued a complaint against Starbucks in late July regarding the company’s actions at another store that unionized. That complaint alleges that Starbucks managers at the company’s store at 1174 E. 55th St. in Hyde Park threatened employees with pay cuts, loss of benefits and changes in working conditions; shared “unsolicited views on union activity” during required personal meetings with employees; and disciplined an employee for testifying before the labor board at a representation hearing.
The complaint alleges that the labor law violations began in late January, shortly after the store’s workers stood in a union election. Baristas at the Hyde Park store they narrowly voted to unionize in June.
The complaints mean that the regional director of the labor board in Chicago has found merit in the unfair labor practice charges brought by the Starbucks union against the company. The cases will now go to trial at the agency; hearings before administrative law judges in both cases are scheduled for the fall.
Starbucks did not respond to a request for comment Thursday about the complaints.
“Starbucks as a company doesn’t seem to care about labor law,” said Carlos Ginard, deputy manager of the Chicago-Midwest Regional Joint Board of United Workers, the Service Employees International Union affiliate that represents Starbucks workers.
“This has been a company known for being very progressive,” Ginard said. “It’s time to be progressive with your own workers. And the progressiveness that we are asking for is to listen to them”.
The Starbucks union says Jasper Booth-Hodges, a former barista at the Hyde Park store who led the union effort there, was fired by the company last week in retaliation for his role in promoting a union at the store.
In his late July filing, the labor board’s regional director in Chicago found merit in allegations that Booth-Hodges was disciplined because he had testified before the labor board. The regional director’s complaint was filed before Starbucks fired Booth-Hodges.
Workers United has since filed an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB in connection with his firing, according to Ginard.
Reggie Borges, a Starbucks spokesman, said in a statement last week that Booth-Hodges was fired for violating the company’s time and attendance policies.
“Jasper received training as well as prior written warnings, including a final written warning,” Borges said. “Jasper was late on three occasions after the final written warning and was separated for that reason.”
Booth-Hodges does not deny that he was late for work, but maintains that he was targeted for being pro-union and knew the company was building a case against him.
“They had one thing against me, and that was that I was a full-time student and sometimes I fell asleep, and they used it to get rid of me,” Booth-Hodges told the Tribune.
“Power is the most important thing for these corporations,” he said. “The reason they are fighting so hard and not caring about all the laws they are breaking is so they can afford legal fees. It’s not about money, it’s about power.”
Starbucks Workers United alleges that Starbucks has laid off more than 80 pro-union workers across the country, according to Casey Moore, a barista on the Starbucks Workers United communications committee.
On Thursday, a federal judge ruled that Starbucks must reinstate seven workers it illegally fired at a Memphis store. The store’s baristas are unionized with Workers United.
Nationwide, workers at more than 220 stores voted to unionize, according to the NLRB. More than 300 have stood for union elections. As of last week, the NLRB’s regional offices had issued 19 complaints against Starbucks covering a wide range of labor law violations.
In Chicago, workers at five Starbucks voted to unionize, while workers at two stores, including the one on California Avenue, voted against.
Starbucks posted record revenue between April and June, when it made $8.2 billion in revenue during the quarter.