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Starbucks Penalizing Unionized Workers by Withholding Credit Card Tipping and Other Benefits

March 28, 2023 | Employment Law

Starbucks violated federal labor law when it excluded 200+ unionized stores from a new policy that facilitated tipping via credit card, according to a new complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board NLRB. When the program rolled out in September, the union filed charges with the NLRB alleging that the exclusion constituted union-busting. The NLRB seeks to have credit card tipping made available in the unionized stores and reimburse workers for the wages lost from Starbucks unfair labor practices.

An internal memo outlines additional benefits Starbucks planned to provide last fall. In response to the successfully spreading unionizing efforts, a one-time raise is the most notable benefit to workers in stores that have not unionized. Anticipating pushback, in the FAQ section, Starbucks provides managers with talking points for meetings with workers. For example, managers may inform the union workers that they are welcome to demand the same wage increase while bargaining, but that doesn’t mean it will be included in the final contract. This is just one of the many misleading warnings and misdirections regarding a suite of benefits that were not offered to unionized employees.

Kate Broffenbrenner, the Director of Labor Education Research at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations said, “If they give benefits to unorganized workers and not to organizing ones, then that’s an unfair labor practice. Once workers are unionized, they have to bargain over changes,” Broffenbrenner added. “So if Starbucks says they’re offering new benefits, they have to offer them to union workers and give them an opportunity to say whether they want them or not. They can give it to nobody or give it to everybody.”

According to The United States Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Starbucks has engaged in the most significant union-busting campaign in modern history. It has been led by Howard Schultz, the company’s founder and three-time CEO, who is synonymous with the brand. Just because Starbucks is a $113 billion company and Howard Schultz is a billionaire with a net worth of $3.7 billion does not mean that they are above the law. They must be held accountable for creating a culture that allows widespread violations of federal labor law in an effort to stop workers from exercising their constitutional right to organize.

If you suspect your employer of labor violations that affect your wages, contact our knowledgeable attorneys who will work tirelessly to get you reimbursed for lost wages and damages.