Federal labor officials filed a sweeping complaint Friday accusing Starbucks of unfair labor practices at its Buffalo, New York stores, including retaliation against union workers.
The regional director of the National Labor Relations Board in Buffalo outlined a number of labor law violations in a petition for reinstatement and delinquency from the workers.
There has been a wave of union action at Starbucks stores across the country, with the first union votes taking place in three stores in Buffalo in December.
The coffee chain called the allegations “false” and promised to fight them at an upcoming hearing.
“Starbucks disagrees that the claims are well founded, and the issuance of the complaint does not constitute a finding by the NLRB,” spokesperson Reggie Borges wrote in an email. “It’s the beginning of a process where both parties can be heard and provide evidence.”
Starbucks Workers United, the group behind the union effort, said the complaint “confirms the magnitude and depravity of Starbucks’ behavior in western New York for the better part of a year.”
“Starbucks is finally being held accountable for the union destruction they have caused,” Danny Rojas, a fired crew chief, said in a statement. “Starbucks must understand that it is morally corrupt to retaliate against union leaders, and I look forward to the NLRB forcing Starbucks to make up for this moment.”
Last month, federal labor officials asked a judge to force Starbucks to reinstate three union activists at its Phoenix location for engaging in unfair labor practices.
As of this week, workers at more than 250 US stores have petitioned the labor council to hold union elections, union organizers say. At least 50 of those stores voted to unionize with Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union.
Starbucks reported Tuesday that revenues rose to record levels in its fiscal second quarter, but noted that it faced higher labor costs, which are set to rise even higher in the coming months as the company introduces new pay increases and other benefits.
However, workers who voted to join unions or stores that petitioned to hold union elections are not eligible for those additional pay raises and benefits.
Starbucks Workers United filed a lawsuit against Starbucks with the Labor Commission on Tuesday. The group alleges that the company is violating labor laws by threatening to exclude union shops from the new benefits.