Starbucks boss questions union violations
Howard Schultz, CEO of the Starbucks coffee chain, must explain to members of the U.S. House of Representatives about the company’s dealings with union members. The US chain has been accused of cracking down on the formation of unions at its branches, which is prohibited by law. Schultz has promised to answer questions from a panel of senators on the issue on March 29.
Schultz did not respond to earlier requests for clarification from independent Senator Bernie Sanders. When a subpoena threatened to force the Starbucks boss to travel to Washington, he changed course.
The reason is complaints about Starbucks received by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the government agency that checks whether employees are free to organize themselves into a union for their rights. According to the NLRB, Starbucks in the United States engaged in, among other things, threats against employees who wanted to organize. The coffee chain reportedly fired about fifty union lawyers and closed branches where employees had voted to unionize. In some cases, judges have intervened and Starbucks has had to rehire fired employees.
In the United States, a union’s influence does not depend on whether a few employees are members, but is limited by company or location. If you want a union in your place, you must have enough supporters. The NLRB monitors this and can declare the election of union officials invalid if an employer refuses to do so.
According to Senator Sanders, employees at more than 280 Starbucks locations have voted to form a union. But the company has not signed a new contract with any union on their terms of employment. Starbucks has repeatedly denied allegations of union busting. Those claims are said to be “blatantly false”.
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