Starbucks closed Colorado Springs store to stop union push, federal agency says

· Dec. 15, 2023, 7:49 am
A Starbucks cafe in downtown Denver.

The country’s top labor regulator has asked Starbucks to reopen 23 stores, including one in Colorado Springs, that closed as part of an alleged anti-union campaign

A regional director with the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint on Wednesday that alleges the coffee chain shuttered unionized stores without proper notice to labor representatives. 

Eight stores, including one on Brookside St. and Nevada Ave. in Colorado Springs, had already finished their union elections. The others were in the process of holding elections.

About 380 of Starbucks’ roughly 10,000 stores in the United States have voted to join unions. Eleven Starbucks locations in Colorado have voted to unionize so far. Meanwhile, the company faces dozens of complaints to the labor relations board about alleged union-busting tactics. 

Starbucks has denied all wrongdoing and says it respects workers’ right to organize. 

Store closures are the outcome of regular business reviews and are done “without regard to union status,” the company said in a statement on Thursday. The company closed 116 stores throughout the U.S. in 2022. About 3 percent were union shops. 

The complaint to labor regulators alleges that the company closed 23 stores without required notice to Workers United, the union representing baristas and shift supervisors. The union, by law, should have had an opportunity to bargain about the decisions. 

Workers at the shuttered Colorado Springs store say the closure caused financial and emotional hardship. 

Maci Parker, a former shift supervisor at the Colorado Springs store, said she was offered work at another, non-union Starbucks. But she didn’t want to make the 50-minute commute, so she babysat and took part-time work at a daycare center. 

“It crushed my spirit,” Parker said. “I know some people had their hours further cut whenever they were transferred to other stores.” 

The complaint states that Starbucks must reopen all 23 stores and offer reemployment for union employees. It also states the company should compensate workers for lost wages and improve training for managers and supervisors about union communications. 

A federal administrative law judge will hear the complaint in a trial next year and make a ruling, which could be appealed. 

The complaint was filed on the same day that Starbucks released a third-party review of its union relations practices. The report found that the company has room to improve its labor relations.

But it hasn’t adopted an illegal “anti-union playbook,” and has taken steps towards bargaining with unionized shops. 

In September, a labor relations judge ruled that Starbucks broke federal law by providing raises and additional benefits to non-union workers in 2022 without offering the same increases to union staff.

Regulators are also reviewing at least six wrongful termination complaints from union baristas in Colorado. In February, a judge ruled that Starbucks violated labor laws by holding captive audience meetings and threatening firings at a Denver store.

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