Following weeks of tension between Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, chaired by Senator Bernie Sanders, a Senate hearing was finally held on March 29, 2023, to explore Starbucks’ alleged offenses against its union members.
Schultz officially exited the company on March 20, 2023, and initially urged the panel to hear testimony from someone else. However, Sanders refused, leading Schultz to agree to testify under threat of subpoena.
This comes just a year after unionization efforts by Starbucks employees in Buffalo, New York, which I touched on in my appearance with Spectrum News 1.
Howard Schulz & Starbucks Labor Practices
For some context, Starbucks and its CEO Howard Schultz are defending against anti-union allegations by employees and the Senate.
This is a response to nearly 300 Starbucks shops voting to join Starbucks Workers United, equating to about 3% of the company’s locations across the country. With a handful of workers seeing termination after choosing to organize, employees have cited misconduct, which sparked a domino effect leading to a Senate hearing.
Administrative law judges have ruled that Starbucks violated labor laws in at least eight of those cases thus far, with the company keen on appealing those decisions.
Other rulings have demanded that Starbucks reinstate those fired workers and issue back-pay compensation. And while Schultz declares that Starbucks has broken no laws, members of the Senate aren’t quite convinced.
Is Starbucks Breaking the Law?
The Senate cited Starbucks’ history of alleged union busting, equating it to “someone who has been ticketed for speeding a hundred times saying ‘I’ve never violated the law, because every single time – every single time – the cop got it wrong,” as stated by Senator Chris Murphy.
Schultz claims that no laws were broken, despite the alleged illegal firing of workers in both Buffalo, NY, and Memphis, Tennessee last year. However, with Starbucks permanently closing certain stores and firing workers who helped organize, union employees and the Senate are exploring whether their actions are illegal and if Schultz played a part in those decisions.
Sen. Sanders cites how employees retain the constitutional right to unionize and engage in collective bargaining. If Starbucks is preventing workers from doing so, then the allegations of illegal labor practices may hold some weight.
The future of unionization at Starbucks and similar food and beverage chains remains to be seen.
However, I predict this is only the beginning and we will see continued efforts to unionize both across traditional and non-traditional employment industries, amid other major changes such as the NLRB’s recent decision regarding severance agreements.
Experienced Employment Law Attorney, Mediator, Arbitrator, Investigator, Legal, and Media Commentator
Twice-named a U.S. News Best Lawyer in America for employment and labor law, Angela Reddock-Wright is an employment and labor law attorney, mediator, arbitrator, and certified workplace and Title IX investigator (AWI-CH) in Los Angeles, CA. Known as the “Workplace Guru,” Angela is an influencer and leading authority on employment, workplace/HR, Title IX, hazing, and bullying issues. Furthermore, she’s been named a “Top 50 Woman Attorney” in California by Super Lawyers, a “Top California Employment Lawyer” by the Daily Journal, and one of Los Angeles’ “Most Influential Minority and Women Attorneys” by the Los Angeles Business Journal.
Angela is a regular legal and media commentator and analyst and has appeared on such media outlets as Good Morning America, Entertainment Tonight, Law and Crime with Brian Ross, Court TV, CNN, NewsNation, ABC News, CBS News, Fox 11 News, KTLA-5, the Black News Channel, Fox Soul – The Black Report, NPR, KPCC, Airtalk-89.3, KJLH Front Page with Dominique DiPrima, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, Forbes.com, Yahoo! Entertainment, People Magazine, Essence Magazine, the Los Angeles Sentinel, LA Focus, Daily Journal, Our Weekly and the Wave Newspapers.
Angela is a member of the panel of distinguished mediators and arbitrators with Signature Resolution, a California dispute resolution company. She also owns her own dispute resolution law firm, the Reddock Law Group of Los Angeles, specializing in the mediation, arbitration, and investigation of employment discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and other workplace claims, along with Title IX, sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct conduct cases, along with hazing and bullying cases in K-12 schools, colleges, and universities, fraternities and sororities; fire, police and other public safety agencies and departments; and other private and public sector workplaces.
Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram @iamangelareddockwright, LinkedIn at Linkedin.com/in/angelareddock, and tune in to my weekly radio show, KBLA Talk 1580’s Legal Lens with Angela Reddock-Wright each Saturday and Sunday at 11 am PST, or catch past episodes on Anchor.fm/Spotify. You can learn more about the radio show here – https://angelareddock-wright.com/radio-show/.
Also, learn more about my book – The Workplace Transformed: 7 Crucial Lessons from the Global Pandemic – here – https://angelareddock-wright.com/book/.
For media inquiries, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information regarding resources for employers, businesses, and employees during this time, connect with Angela on LinkedIn for new updates or contact her here. You may also follow her on Instagram.
This communication is not legal advice. It is educational only. For legal advice, consult with an experienced employment law attorney in your state or city.