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Labor Board Complaint Asks Starbucks to Reopen 23 Stores


A consolidated complaint from the National Labor Relations Board has urged Starbucks to immediately reopen 23 stores that workers alleged were shut down in order to discourage unionization efforts.

According to the New York Times, which first brought the complaint to light, seven of the 23 stores were unionized at the time they were shut down. The majority of the stores identified in the complaint were not unionized or engaged in petitioning for union representation. 

The new NLRB complaint — filed by an NLRB regional director and not yet ruled upon by an NLRB administrative judge — consolidates numerous existing complaints concerning individual locations throughout the country.

A Starbucks representative told DCN today that opening and closing stores is common practice for the company as it determines “where we can best meet our community and customers’ needs.”

“In support of our Reinvention Plan, and as part of our ongoing efforts to transform our store portfolio, we continue to open, close and evolve our stores as we assess, reposition and strengthen our store portfolio,” Sara Trilling, executive vice president and president of Starbucks North America, said in an announcement shared with DCN. 

As of this writing, workers at approximately 360 Starbucks stores — which represents approximately 4% of company-operated Starbucks stores in the U.S. — have unionized on a store-by-store basis. None of those efforts have yet to result in a ratified contract.

Last week, Starbucks Chief Partner Officer Sara Kelly wrote a public letter to union organizer Workers United seeking a reboot in the collective bargaining agreements between the two groups. Kelly wrote that “the current impasse should not be acceptable to either of us.”

Yesterday’s NLRB complaint urging Starbucks to reopen 23 stores arrived on the same day as a Starbucks in-house report, commissioned by the company’s board, on the company’s labor relations. That report determined that Starbucks has not maintained an “anti-union playbook,” but it suggested the company was unprepared for the union push.

Starbucks coffee

Starbucks independent board chair Mellody Hobson said in a statement yesterday that Starbucks should “improve its stated commitments” to the right to collective bargaining.

In a statement shared with DCN, Starbucks Workers United member and Seattle-based employee Mari Cosgrove said yesterday’s NLRB complaint is “the latest confirmation of Starbucks’ determination to illegally oppose workers’ organizing.”

“It adds to the litany of complaints detailed in the company’s own report released this morning,” Cosgrove added. “If Starbucks is sincere in its overtures in recent days to forge a different relationship with its partners, this is exactly the kind of illegal behavior it needs to stop.”

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