Starbucks appeals NLRB ALJ findings about our ability to improve pay and benefits

Today, we filed exceptions, similar to an appeal, with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) contesting the recommended decision and order issued by an Administrative Law Judge in September 2023.

We strongly maintain that, by the NLRB’s own standards, an employer may not unilaterally make changes to the terms or conditions of employment for unionizing or newly unionized employees. Doing so would be an inherent threat to the integrity of the election and the bargaining process. We also maintain that it is lawful to grant such wage increases and benefit enhancements to partners in all other stores. 

Starbucks has adhered to long-standing legal obligations, which required it to differentiate between unionized or organizing partners and partners in all other stores. Indeed, former NLRB Deputy General Counsel Alice Stock recently and rightly observed that adoption of this new standard as set out by the administrative law judge “would change eight decades of law.”

Rather than continuing to prolong and flood the NLRB process, Workers United should focus on moving the collective bargaining process forward to secure first contracts for partners they represent. Unfortunately, Workers United hasn’t confirmed any store bargaining session proposed by the Company in more than four months. 

We are committed to supporting the right of our partners to freely associate and bargain collectively, and we will continue to abide by all established U.S. labor laws. Our partners deserve representatives that show up for them at the bargaining table – not representatives that continue to ignore their best interests.

Sept. 28, 2023

Today, in Seattle, a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued a recommended decision and order in the Consolidated Case 19-CA-294579 that is in direct conflict with 75 years of controlling U.S. Supreme Court and NLRB precedent. Under settled law, an employer may not unilaterally implement changes – even improvements – in wages or benefits for partners in organizing or unionized stores.

The purpose of these legal rules, which Starbucks complied with, is to avoid even the appearance that changes are being made in order to compromise the integrity of the election and collective bargaining processes. Starbucks has honored these established organizing and collective bargaining rules and plans to file exceptions to, or appeal, the ALJ’s recommendation. 

We strongly maintain our position that, by the NLRB’s own standards, an employer may not unilaterally make changes to wages or benefits for unionizing or newly unionized employees because of the inherent threat to the integrity of the election and/or bargaining process.

The ALJ’s recommendation that Starbucks should or could have disregarded these rules is flatly wrong and creates an untenable situation – which has already been rejected by federal courts – where employers violate the law if they unilaterally include organizing or unionized employees when making changes in wages and benefits and violate the law if they do not do so.

The ALJ’s recommendation is also contrary to two decisions the NLRB issued just this August. In those cases, the NLRB held employers may not unilaterally implement discretionary changes in wages and benefits for unionized employees, even if the same changes are being made for nonunion employees. As the NLRB put it, federal law “protects the employees’ right to bargain, not their right to a bargain.”

NLRB and labor law matters are complicated and we understand and relate to partner frustration when these facts don’t make it into a news headline or a social media post, or when this has been distorted by some. We appreciate every opportunity to share the facts, address inaccuracies and defend our actions as we work side-by-side with our partners to continually enhance and improve the Starbucks experience. 

Starbucks is proud to offer the best benefits for hourly retail work, including comprehensive health insurance, Bean Stock, retirement savings, Lyra for mental health, Spotify Premium, paid time off, parental leave, fertility benefits, 100% tuition coverage through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan – and more. Ideas for these continuously evolving and innovative benefits and perks come from our partners and their direct relationship with leaders.

In case you missed it…

Former deputy general counsel Alice B. Stock recently opined on this case stating “putting employers in this catch-22 situation is not helpful because there is no guidance on how to comply with the law.” Read Stock’s take on this matter and the eight decades of case law leading up to it.