The union struggle at Starbucks continues. Unions have formed across the US, and the company has retaliated by closing some stores, citing various reasons, including health and safety, although these same stores coincidentally appear to be the ones supporting unionisation.

Recently, the company has filed charges with the National Labour Relations Board against union officials, who allegedly recorded negotiation sessions for workers who were unable to attend. The charges are specific to meetings in Chicago; Buffalo, New York; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Louisville, Kentucky; and Long Beach, California.

Starbucks said in a statement on 24 October that the broadcasting and recording of private sessions undermine the business interests of the company and its partners.

Meanwhile, the union also filed complaints with the NLRB on 25 October, arguing that Starbucks is not acting in good faith. Starbucks officials appeared to walk out of the five bargaining sessions within five minutes of the negotiations on day one after members of Workers United joined the video meeting online. The union replied that such an approach is simply a childish tactic to delay negotiations even further.

The fighting does indeed reflect a children’s playground spat, but if both parties are going to negotiate in good faith, then each needs to be transparent about their intentions. If recordings need to be made for those not attending, then it should be tabled at the meeting, and if all parties agree, then the meeting is recorded with consent, and if not, then the meeting can be rescheduled. A surreptitious recording is unethical and destroys trust.

However, the NLRB prohibits recordings or transcripts of contract negotiations and has previously argued against the recording of negotiation sessions, and in fact, the union claimed the negotiations were not recorded. According to Workers United, Starbucks declined to negotiate because some members of the bargaining committee attended the meeting remotely.

In correspondence leading up to these bargaining sessions, the union made clear that it was reserving the right to have bargaining members participate by Zoom when necessary and appropriate.

Starbucks Workers United

More than 230 Starbucks stores have unionised and the company is in the midst of 40 negotiations. The workers at stores that have voted to unionise accuse Starbucks of unfair labour practices and of withholding their pay increases and other benefits.

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