Starbucks asks labor board to temporarily suspend union votes

Starbucks is asking the National Labor Relations Board to temporarily suspend all union elections at its U.S. stores in response to allegations of poor coordination between regional NLRB officials and the union.

In a letter sent Monday to the NLRB, Starbucks said an unnamed government official informed the company of numerous problems at the NLRB office in St. Louis while overseeing an election at a Starbucks store in Overland Park, Kansas, earlier this spring.

The Seattle coffee giant alleges the regional office made special arrangements for pro-union workers to vote in person at its office, even though the store’s election was supposed to be by mail-in ballot.

Starbucks said regional officials also leaked confidential information to the union, including ballots that arrived in the mail to be counted.

Email messages seeking comment were left Monday at the NLRB and Starbucks Workers United, the group seeking to unionize US Starbucks stores. The union said it was preparing a response.

Workers at the Overland Park store voted 6 to 1 to unionize in April, but seven additional ballots were contested by Starbucks or the union. A hearing on those challenges is scheduled for Tuesday, but in the letter, Starbucks asked that that hearing be delayed.

More than 220 US Starbucks stores have voted to unionize since late last year. The company opposes the unionization effort.

Starbucks said there is evidence of misconduct in other regions as well. The company wants the NLRB to fully investigate Starbucks’ other union elections and release a report of its findings. The company said the board should also put safeguards in place to prevent regional officials from coordinating with one party or another.

Starbucks also asked the NLRB to issue an order requiring all current and future elections to be held in person with observers from both sides.

“If the NLRB does not respond by investigating and remedying these types of actions, we fail to see how the board can present itself as a neutral agency,” the company said in the letter.

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