Starbucks fired 7 union organizers. The government wants a court to reinstate them

Seven Starbucks employees in Buffalo, New York, said they were fired for their involvement in union organizing. The National Labor Relations Council is asking a court to reinstate them.

Joshua Bessex/AP

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Joshua Bessex/AP

Seven Starbucks employees in Buffalo, New York, said they were fired for their involvement in union organizing. The National Labor Relations Council is asking a court to reinstate them.

Joshua Bessex/AP

The National Labor Relations Board is asking a court to reinstate seven Starbucks workers who were allegedly unlawfully fired for being involved in union organizing.

If approved by a judge, the NLRB filing would allow former Starbucks employees, who worked at multiple locations in Buffalo, N.Y., to return to work while union-busting allegations against Starbucks are heard in court. court, a process that can take months. The case is due to be heard on July 11.

The workers say they were spotted at work by Starbucks officials. A former employee, Angel Krempa, said she was fired after a series of “targeted attacks” once her store management realized she was involved in union organizing. She says that when she was hired, her manager at the time told her that the multiple nose piercings and the suicide prevention pin she wore to work every day were fine. But a new manager who started in January, after the start of the union campaign, took issue with the piercings and the pin. Krempa says she was asked to remove them and refused. The Starbucks employee handbook states that the only pins allowed are those of the union.

Before being fired, Krempa says she received several written warnings for refusing to remove one of her piercings or remove the pin. She also received a warning for missing work because her car wouldn’t start. She said her managers claimed she had not informed the store of her absence. Krempa said she called her manager to let them know she was trying to get a ride.

Krempa believes the disciplinary action was prompted by her defense of a union, and she is confident the judge will see it that way as well.

“I don’t think we’re going to lose either of these next two lawsuits,” Krempa said, referring to both the demand for immediate reinstatement from her and the other workers and the hearing. of July 11 on alleged unfair labor practices at Starbucks.

The Starbucks store in Krempa voted to unionize on March 23. She was fired on April 1.

Starbucks denies any anti-union allegations. “As we have said previously, we believe these claims to be untrue and will be prepared to defend our case,” Reggie Borges, a Starbucks spokesperson, said in an email to NPR.

In an effort to curb union organizing efforts at several Buffalo Starbucks locations, the company raised wages and promised improvements such as centralized training and store renovations, according to court documents. CEO Howard Schultz said in May that all Starbucks employees get new benefits — including expanded training, improved sick leave and credit card tips — but stores with active union efforts would be excluded. .

The company also sent officials to discourage union activity and closed stores with active union campaigns, an NLRB spokesperson said.

The recent filing could have nationwide effects. If the judge rules in favor of the NLRB, Starbucks should immediately end the alleged union busting activity in all stores. It would also be required to recognize and bargain with the Starbucks Workers United union. The NLRB is trying to get an immediate halt to what it calls unfair labor practices because waiting for the case to be heard in court would take too long to remedy the violations.

A Starbucks in Buffalo was the chain’s first location to unionize in December, sparking a major wave of unionization at the coffee company’s stores. Since then, more than 150 Starbucks stores have voted to unionize and 25 have voted against, according to NLRB figures.

The NLRB region that covers much of New York, including Buffalo, filed a lawsuit with more than 200 allegations of unfair labor practices by Starbucks.

The NLRB has filed similar demands to reinstate Starbucks workers in Memphis, Tennessee, and Phoenix. The Memphis case is pending and Phoenix’s claim was denied by a judge earlier this month.

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