Starbucks Corporation has accused the National Labour Relations Board (NLRB) of manipulating employee elections to unionise and has requested that elections be suspended pending the outcome of an investigation.
According to a letter from Starbucks sent to, among others, Chairman of the NLRB, Lauren McFerran, the coffee giant accuses NLRB agents of allegedly helping the union group named Workers United win elections by manipulating the voting process and then collaborating to cover up the behaviour.
Starbucks says it learned of the alleged misconduct from a whistleblower who is a long-time NLRB employee. The company says it was informed that the misconduct took place during a Kansas City, Kansas union election, and it is believed to have happened in other regions as well.
A spokesperson for the NLRB says they have well established processes for challenging elections, and will carefully and objectively consider any challenges raised.
Workers United, on the other hand, calls the letter Starbucks’ latest attempt to manipulate the legal process for their own means and prevent workers from exercising their fundamental right to organise.
A year ago, there were no unionised corporate-owned Starbucks locations in the US, but now employees at 216 cafes have voted to join the union. Workers at 46 other locations have voted against unionising.
The elections have been conducted by way of a mail-in ballot, and the company is asking for all pending and future elections to be conducted manually with in-person voting and observers from both sides present.
The allegations come amid a growing movement towards unionisation among US retailers, including giants like Amazon, Chipotle, Lululemon Athletica and Trader Joe’s.