Starbucks has been found to have broken the law by providing raises and additional benefits to non-union workers without offering the same increases to unionized staff, according to a federal labor judge. The ruling is part of a series of allegations that Starbucks engaged in a campaign to undermine unionization efforts. The judge determined that the company violated the National Labor Relations Act by giving non-union workers a raise to at least $15 an hour while excluding unionized staff. The ruling is the first to hold Starbucks accountable for a national policy violation, as previous rulings only addressed individual stores. The judge recommended that Starbucks provide back pay to union workers who did not receive raises and ordered CEO Laxman Narasimhan to record and distribute a video describing employee labor rights.
The allegations against Starbucks regarding union-busting practices gained attention when former CEO Howard Schultz faced questioning from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Senator Bernie Sanders grilled Schultz and encouraged workers to pursue unionization. Another labor judge previously ruled that Starbucks committed labor violations against New York workers attempting to form a union. In the recent ruling, the judge determined that Starbucks’ communication strategy surrounding the raise announcement was a calculated effort to discourage union activity. The ruling highlighted anti-union content on the company’s website, listening sessions where Schultz spoke against unionization, and misleading statements about the benefits of organizing.
Starbucks has expressed its disagreement with the ruling and plans to appeal if the judge’s recommendations are upheld. The company argues that it followed established organizing and bargaining rules and that disregarding these rules creates an untenable situation for employers. Starbucks Workers United, on the other hand, celebrated the decision as a “massive victory” for employees, stating that it holds Starbucks accountable for its union-busting strategy. The union claims that the ruling reveals the coordinated nature of Starbucks’ campaign and its negative impact on workers who rely on their income for essential expenses.