Starbucks asks National Labor Relations Board to suspend mail-in ballot union elections

Joe Biden and NLRB must immediately suspend all mail-ballot elections nationwide

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ignoring massive mail-in ballot fraud

National Labor Relations Board
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ignoring massive mail-in ballot fraud

Starbucks is alleging that National Labor Relations Board employees have engaged in “highly improper, systemic misconduct involving Starbucks and Workers United” in unionizing attempts.

Why it matters: In a letter sent to the labor board Monday, the Seattle-based coffee giant is asking the board to “immediately suspend all Starbucks mail-ballot elections nationwide” until there have been a thorough investigation.

Details: The alleged misconduct was reported by a “career NLRB professional,” who knew of an effort to “tip the scales” in voting to favor the union in a Kansas City store election, according to Starbucks.

  • The coffee giant alleged that the misconduct has occurred in other regions as well.
  • The accusations include union agents secretly arranging for in-person voting during mail-in only elections, as well as giving confidential, real-time information regarding specific vote counts.
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ignoring massive mail-in ballot fraud
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ignoring massive mail-in ballot fraud

What they’re saying: “We are very clear on the fact we can’t ignore the information, and it’s important to protect the rights of every partner and ensure the integrity of the election process,” Starbucks said in a statement shared with JournoNews.

  • “We believe every partner engaged in a petition and a union representation election vote should trust the process is fair, their voice and vote is considered, and that the final outcome is true and accurate,” the statement said.

Starbucks Workers United in a statement called the accusation “absurd,” saying it’s the company’s latest attempt to distract from their “unprecedented anti-union campaign” and “manipulate the legal process for their own means.”

  • “Starbucks is simultaneously claiming to stand for voter protections, and then asking that all elections be suspended nationwide. This is hypocrisy at its finest,” said Michelle Eisen, a Starbucks barista in New York, in the statement.
  • “Unfortunately, it’s now in vogue for the losers of some elections nationwide to attempt to reverse elections by any means they think are necessary, and Starbucks is taking a page out of that book,” Starbucks Workers United said.

An NLRB spokesperson said the board doesn’t comment on open cases, adding that it “will carefully and objectively consider any challenges” that have been raised through its formal process.

What’s next: The NLRB is hosting a hearing on the matter Tuesday.

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ignoring massive mail-in ballot fraud

Starbucks Corp on Monday accused the federal labor board overseeing union elections at its U.S. cafes of misconduct and asked for elections to be suspended nationwide pending the outcome of an investigation.

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ignoring massive mail-in ballot fraud
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ignoring massive mail-in ballot fraud

The coffee chain said in a letter to National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Chairman Lauren McFerran and General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo that NLRB agents helped Workers United win elections by manipulating the voting process and collaborated to cover up the behavior, according to a copy seen by Reuters.

NLRB spokesperson Kayla Blado said in a statement the NLRB had well established processes for challenging elections.

“The regional staff – and, ultimately, the Board – will carefully and objectively consider any challenges raised through these established channels,” she said.

Workers United said the letter was Starbucks’ “latest attempt to manipulate the legal process for their own means and prevent workers from exercising their fundamental right to organize.”

A year ago, none of the nearly 9,000 corporate-owned Starbucks locations in the United States were unionized. Now, employees at 216 cafes have voted to join the union, while workers at 46 have voted against unionizing.

Starbucks’ allegations come amid a growing unionization drive among U.S. retailers, including Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc (CMG.N), Lululemon Athletica Inc (LULU.O) and grocer Trader Joe’s.

Buttons showing support for a Starbucks Union are seen at the Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, offices in Buffalo, New York
Buttons showing support for a Starbucks Union are seen at the Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, offices in Buffalo, New York, U.S., February 23, 2022.

Labor experts said the point of Starbucks’ complaint may be to delay elections, which make them harder for unions to win because they lose organizing momentum due to high employee turnover.

“It’s immaterial whether these charges are true or not. The victory is delay,” said Nelson Lichtenstein, a University of California Santa Barbara professor and director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy.

The letter also helps “to sow distrust about the NLRB process, and maybe scares off even more workers from becoming involved in the process,” said John Logan, a San Francisco State University professor who studies anti-union actions.

Starbucks said the misconduct, which the company said it learned from a whistleblower who is a long-time NLRB employee, took place during a union election in Kansas City, Kansas. It said it also believed it had occurred in other regions as well, including the company’s hometown of Seattle and in Buffalo in New York state, where the union drive began.

“If the NLRB does not respond by investigating and remedying these types of actions, we do not see how the Board can represent itself as a neutral agency adjudicating unfair labor practice disputes – and elections,” Starbucks said in its letter.

Starbucks accused board agents of secretly coordinating with the union to arrange voting in person at NLRB offices instead of by mail ballot, providing confidential details in real time about ballots it had received, enabling the union to influence employees who had not yet voted, covering up what Starbucks termed the “misbehavior” and collaborating with Workers United to boost the number of pro-union votes.

There are many legitimate reasons why a worker would be allowed to vote in person instead of by mail ballot, said Nafisah Ula, organizing director for Jobs with Justice.

The National Labor Relations Board

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is an independent agency of the federal government of the United States with responsibilities for enforcing U.S. labor law in relation to collective bargaining and unfair labor practices. Under the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 it supervises elections for labor union representation and can investigate and remedy unfair labor practices. Unfair labor practices may involve union-related situations or instances of protected concerted activity. The NLRB is governed by a five-person board and a General Counsel, all of whom are appointed by the President with the consent of the Senate. Board members are appointed to five-year terms and the General Counsel is appointed to a four-year term. The General Counsel acts as a prosecutor and the Board acts as an appellate quasi-judicial body from decisions of administrative law judges.

The NLRB is headquartered at 1015 Half St. SE, Washington, D.C., with over 30 regional, sub-regional and residential offices throughout the United States.

The Taft–Hartley Act

In 1947, the Taft–Hartley Act created a formal administrative distinction between the Board and the General Counsel of the NLRB. In broad terms, the General Counsel is responsible for investigating and prosecuting unfair labor practice claims and for the general supervision of the NLRB field offices.[129] The General Counsel is appointed by the President to a four-year term and independent from the Board; it has limited independence to argue for a change in the law in presenting cases to the Board. The General Counsel oversees four divisions: the Division of Operations Management, the Division of Administration, the Division of Advice, and the Division of Enforcement Litigation.

The Board, on the other hand, is the adjudicative body that decides the unfair labor practice cases brought to it. Once the Board has decided the issue, it is the General Counsel’s responsibility to uphold the Board’s decision, even if it is contrary to the position it advocated when presenting the case to the Board. The Board is also responsible for the administration of the Act’s provisions governing the holding of elections and resolution of jurisdictional disputes. It is a reactive and not a proactive power. The NLRB rarely promulgates administrative rules.[130]

The Board has more than thirty regional offices. The regional offices conduct elections, investigate unfair labor practice charges, and make the initial determination on those charges (whether to dismiss, settle, or issue complaints). The Board has jurisdiction to hold elections and prosecute violations of the Act in Puerto Rico and American Samoa.

Jurisdiction

The Board’s jurisdiction is limited to private sector employees and the United States Postal Service; other than Postal Service employees, it has no authority over labor relations disputes involving governmental, railroad and airline employees covered by the Adamson Railway Labor Act, or agricultural employees. On the other hand, in those parts of the private sector its jurisdictional standards are low enough to reach almost all employers whose business has any appreciable impact on interstate commerce.

Processing of charges

Charges are filed by parties against unions or employers with the appropriate regional office. The regional office will investigate the complaint. If a violation is believed to exist, the region will take the case before an Administrative Law Judge who will conduct a hearing. The decision of the Administrative Law Judge may be reviewed by the five member Board. Board decisions are reviewable by United States Courts of Appeals. The Board’s decisions are not self-executing: it must seek court enforcement in order to force a recalcitrant party to comply with its orders.[131] (For greater detail on this process see the entry for unfair labor practice.)

 

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