NLRB dismisses local petition against Starbucks Workers United

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Workers at Starbuck’s Mt. Hope Avenue location unionized in April 2022. (Photo by Henry Litsky)

A petition to disband the Starbucks Workers United labor union at the Mount Hope Avenue store was dismissed last week by the National Labor Relations Board’s Buffalo office. This is the second such dismissal, and only one petition remains standing nationwide.

The NLRB certified the union’s 13-11 Mount Hope election win on April 26, 2022, after it dismissed Starbucks’ objections to how the election was carried out, which included allegations that certain workers weren’t delivered mail-in ballots and that two ballots were improperly voided. 

Since then, Starbucks and the union haven’t reached agreements at any of the more than 300 unionized shops nationwide, and the NLRB ruled that Starbucks has illegally “failed and refused” to bargain at 144 unionized shops. The two sides have accused each other of holding up bargaining at the Mount Hope location.

The company has also been the subject of numerous unfair labor practice cases filed with the NLRB, and those undecided cases underpin NLRB Buffalo Branch Regional Director Linda Leslie’s decision to dismiss the Mount Hope petition.

Central to her argument are allegations that the company has delayed providing SBWU with dates for initial bargaining sessions and has failed and refused to meet and bargain for a first contract. The open complaint alleging these actions seeks at the Mount Hope store a “Mar-Jac remedy,” which is an extension of the certification year following a union election’s certification by the NLRB.

This is key because decertification petitions can be validly filed only after the certification year has passed. Under NLRB precedent set in the case Rieth-Riley Construction Co., Leslie argues she is compelled to presume those allegations are true and dismiss the decertification petition, subject to reinstatement if the NLRB sides with the company on that complaint.

“These decertification petitions are being dismissed because of Starbucks’ own actions,” says Casey Moore of SBWU. “They’re being dismissed because there’s so many pending investigations into Starbucks’ illegal conduct. And the fact that they’re being filed in the first place is because Starbucks is refusing to actually come to the table and bargain with workers, and it’s been, you know, a long fight for a lot of people.”

Starbucks, on the other hand, sees the dismissal as an abdication of responsibility by the NLRB.

“This is a disappointing departure from the cornerstone responsibility of the National Labor Relations Board to equally protect an employee’s free choice to ‘form, join or assist’ a union as well as their ‘right to refrain’ from union representation,” Starbucks said, quoting the National Labor Relations Act, in a statement to the Rochester Beacon.

This decision was in lockstep with Leslie’s May 25 ruling to dismiss the first decertification petition filed nationwide, which emerged in April out of the “Del-Chip” Starbucks cafe on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo. 

The Mount Hope petition was filed on May 8, and then a third bid to oust the union at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Manhattan kicked off soon thereafter. The decision is still pending on whether the New York City petition will move forward, and it will be up to a different NLRB regional director—John D. Doyle, Jr. of the NYC branch—than in the Buffalo and Rochester cases. 

However, Moore points out that the pending cases that factored into Leslie’s decisions have been filed nationally against the company rather than at specific locations, so they weigh on the NYC decision as well.

“We’re very confident that it will be dismissed on similar grounds,” she says.

Justin O’Connor is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer and a student at the University of Rochester. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

8 thoughts on “NLRB dismisses local petition against Starbucks Workers United

  1. As a matter of fact, Starbucks did close a very profitable location in Ithaca near the colleges, which is the subject of an Unfair Labor Practice. This strategy does not work unless you are going to close the hundreds of Starbucks that have voted union and walk away from those customers. Many of these companies, fast food, retail, service industries are unionized in Europe, Japan, Canada, and doing well. Amazon has a Union contract in France and Bezos just gets richer. A closed shop is not automatic, but a subject of contract negotiations. Workers who do not belong to the union rarely leave unless due to education and training to get a better job in a different industry. Workers with average education, often labor in semi-skilled, and unskilled jobs. If they are against the union, they almost never leave. They cannot negotiate better wages, benefits, and conditions of employment than the union gets them. They demand expensive grievance procedures, including binding arbitration, that union members pay for. Due process and just cause are not required except by union contract. They love having the protections and standard of living of a union contract. They just demand their co-workers pay the costs. I know because I spent a career as a Postal Union Advocate and we are an open shop, by law, and always have been. Over 85% of jobs are not union. If they could get a better deal without the union, they would take the deal and leave. They can’t and they don’t.
    Advances in science and technology always continue regardless of unionization. Good unions negotiate downsizing by attrition, recall rights, and education and training for any new jobs that new tech creates.

    • The Union obviously didn’t help Starbucks workers in Ithaca, since the store(s) were closed and all jobs were eliminated (not to mention the second order negative effects of a closing on the community) . Europe is NOT a role model, this is a continent that can’t even defend itself without the tender mercies of the US taxpayer. To imitate their economics would be foolish. (They recently raised the retirement age in France from 62 to 64 and there were literally riots in the street). When adversity strikes in their attempted Utopia, they brake glass and call the Capitalist Uncle Sam. The Post Office is so hosed, that it shouldn’t be a model for anything, except how to loose money faster…

      • The Union in Ithaca and the workers are not two separate entities, but workers in the stores that formed a union. By law only two workers are needed to form a union. No other union’s organizers came in to organize them, though they have requested and received financial and legal support from other unions.
        The USPS was doing just fine until George W. put 75 years of pre-funding retirees’ health benefits on the USPS. Prior, the USPS paid it yearly, with 25% paid by employees and retirees. Recent USPS problems have all happened on PMG Dejoy’s watch, another top Trump appointee.
        Workers would never want to imitate Europe. Why would they want higher wages, Social Security they can live on, real progressive taxes for the rich, or complete health care, including medicines, at less than half the cost than here? Plus, where is the excitement of your children and grandchildren not doing active shooter drills or being murdered getting groceries? No fun there.

      • No union organized these workers, they formed their own independent union as all Starbucks have except the Buffalo location. If only two workers are the workforce, those two can agree to form a union, by law. When looking at the world’s other 32 high income democracies they of course would not want higher wages, affordable housing, less than 5% of their children in poverty instead of 15%, Social Security they could live on, or all with medical care and medicines at half the per person cost as the USA. Workers would all be for 700 billionaires and other rich people paying a lower percentage in taxes than a teacher or electrician.
        Those other countries don’t have janitors, laborers, retail sales, or food workers, and other workers comprising nearly a third of the workforce being paid $15 an hour or less with no paid leave or healthcare. The USPS was doing just fine until given a bill for $55 billion to prefund retirees’ healthcare for 75 years. That was corrected last year. The health care was paid in full every year by the USPS with the employees and retirees paying at least 25%. The USPS problems have all come from PMG Dejoy’s time, Trump’s guy. As far as French workers fighting for their retirement benefits, Vive La France!

  2. It is clear from Starbucks position, and the CEO’s testimony before the Senate, in spite of attempts to explain the law to him, that they do not get it or wish to get it. The company gets no vote. Prior to 1969 a majority signing for a union was enough to recognize the union and issue a duty to bargain order, absent the company having real proof of fraud on the signed cards. There was no election and no mandatory captive audience meetings, meetings that reduce unionization by 30% according to Cornell. The union is not given an equal right to address all employees at the workplace. Forcing someone to listen and read your “speech” is a violation of free speech, if one is not free to walk away. The enforcement of the National Labor Relations Act, under the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), is to enforce a pro-worker statute. The NLRB is not a neutral arbitrator between Labor and Management. Their mandate is to promote Collective Bargaining thru Unions and that is the clear legislative intent. This is a surprise to many as we do not have a union buster (Scalia) as head of the Labor Department, though we have an anti-worker Supreme Court. It must be thru unions where negotiators are elected by workers to ensure the worker negotiators are supported by a majority of workers. It is workers productivity that creates the wealth in a society, and one will not find freedom anywhere in today’s world if that country does not have a free union movement and worker rights. Dr. Martin Luther King taught me that when he asked the question, ” What good is integrating a lunch counter if you cannot afford the hamburger they are serving”? In my 17th year he kicked off his poor people’s campaign in Memphis fighting for a union of sanitation workers and paid with his life. In the early 70’s I learned in person from Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta that,” Workers’ Rights and Civil Rights are the same struggle, the struggle for Human Rights.” Workers’ rights to withhold their labor and join a union is protected by law, and Starbucks has literally violated the law over a hundred times during their anti-union campaign.

  3. Starbucks is one of the last places the Union should be scavenging, given Starbucks pay and benefits are leading the restaurant industry. I just read somewhere that in this campaign by the Union, they are infiltrating Starbucks store employees with Union organizers (planting them). This is not good for employment and will have unintended consequences. I also recently read that Starbucks closed some stores in Ithaca rather than deal with the Union. Given advances in automation , and the march of Artificial Intelligence, baristas and cashiers can be replaced. I hope that’s not the outcome……

    • Your opinion or mine, or Starbuck’s CEO, of what Starbucks workers should do means nothing. By law, that decision is solely up to those workers.

      • L’est we forget, these are private businesses. The owners are free to shut them down , or eliminate jobs via automation or AI. Speaking of “its up to the workers”, its my understanding that a vote to unionize means a closed Union shop (in other words I can’t work there unless I join the union) , so it is not solely up to the workers. In other states that have right-to-work laws, a workers right to not join a union would be protected.

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