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].