NLRB sets aside improperly conducted election at our Overland Park store

We are pleased the NLRB’s Regional Director in Brooklyn has finally set aside the improperly conducted election at our Overland Park store. This overdue action comes nearly seven months after a hearing officer concluded local NLRB officials engaged in substantial misconduct. 

In the decision issued, the Regional Director agreed with the hearing officer that the following actions gave the appearance that NLRB officials acted more favorably toward Workers United, casting substantial doubt on the agency’s appearance of neutrality:

  • The NLRB Regional Office approved “special balloting procedures” for a few voters, but informed only Workers United (not Starbucks) of those “special” procedures
  • The NLRB’s communications to Starbucks during the voting period “misrepresented” the facts by failing to disclose to Starbucks the “special balloting procedures” the NLRB had arranged with Workers United
  • Overall, the misconduct of the NLRB Regional Office in running the Overland Park election “cast[s] doubt on the Region’s appearance of neutrality,” undermining the fairness and validity of the election results.

The decision reaffirms our concerns regarding the lack of neutrality in NLRB elections and reignites questions the NLRB Inspector General is considering in their wider review of the agency’s objectivity and conduct.

What we’re reading

Starbucks Gets Election Redo Over NLRB Agents’ Miscues

“A National Labor Relations Board official on Wednesday set aside Workers United’s election win at a Starbucks in Kansas and called for another vote, saying local officials gave the appearance of favoritism by huddling with the union to resolve a ballot distribution mistake.

“The head of the NLRB’s Brooklyn office, Teresa Poor, sustained Starbucks’ argument that election overseers in Overland Park, Kansas, tainted the spring 2022 mail-ballot election by arranging with the union — and without looping in Starbucks — for some workers to vote in-person. While Starbucks didn’t show it affected the election, the sidebar nonetheless undermined confidence in the board’s neutrality, Poor said.

“‘The region’s failure to communicate with one of the two parties about the special balloting procedures being permitted gives the impression that the region was being more transparent with the [union] about its procedures, thereby casting doubt on the region’s appearance of neutrality,’ Poor said.”

Bloomberg Law logo

Starbucks Rerun Union Election Ordered at High-Profile Location

“Starbucks Corp. workers at a Kansas store that’s become the focus of a congressional probe into the National Labor Relations Board’s objectivity will vote in a rerun union election, despite a seemingly contradictory order in a related administrative case.

“Starbucks Workers United’s win at an Overland Park, Kan., cafe must be thrown out because staffers in the agency’s St. Louis region communicated with the union about special voting arrangements for workers who didn’t get mail ballots, but failed to keep the coffee giant in the loop, an NLRB regional director ruled Wednesday.

That disparity in communications ‘undermines the Region’s appearance of neutrality,” said Teresa Poor, the RD for the NLRB’s Brooklyn region.'”

Feb. 24, 2023

Every partner engaged in a union election should be able to trust the process is fair, their vote is counted, and that the outcome is true and accurate. That is why we’ve continued to insist that the NLRB Inspector General release audit findings and the NLRB take action to implement all necessary safeguards to prevent future misconduct.

Today, findings of a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) hearing into the March 16, 2022, union representation election in Overland Park, Kansas, were issued. The NLRB Hearing Officer concluded that there was substantial misconduct on the part of local NLRB officials during the election, “cast[ing] doubt as to the fairness of the conduct of this election,” and therefore recommended that a new election should take place. 

The Hearing Officer submitted this extremely rare recommendation based on a range of NLRB misconduct including, among other things:

  • Fostering substantial disparities between the communications the NLRB shared with Starbucks and Workers United.
  • Coordinating with Workers United to provide select partners the opportunity to schedule and place votes at the NLRB regional office during an NLRB-ordered “mail-ballot” election, without extending the same opportunity or information to Starbucks.
  • Disenfranchising other partners who were not given the same opportunity to cast votes at the NLRB regional office.
  • Providing Workers United agents confidential, non-public, real-time information regarding specific vote counts received, enabling the union to target and influence partners who had not voted.
  • Leaving determinative mail ballots unsecured and unattended, which the Board has previously found is “grounds for setting aside an election, even absent evidence of tampering.”

Reviewing such findings, the Hearing Officer concluded the inequities “cast doubt on validity on the fairness of this election,” and recommended “that the election held on March 16, 2022 be set aside and a new election held.”

Click here to read the NLRB hearing officer’s report.

The findings of misconduct and recommendation for a new election come after months of effort by Starbucks, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and multiple Senate and House Workforce Leaders to alert the NLRB of misconduct and to request an internal investigation. Importantly, the Hearing Officer’s findings are distinct and separate from an ongoing investigation by the NLRB Inspector General into these issues and other allegations of NLRB misconduct.

Our focus is to ensure that every partner engaged in a union representation election can trust the process is fair, their voice and vote are considered, and that the final outcome is true and accurate. We will always stand up for our partners to ensure their votes are handled legally and are counted appropriately – and look forward to the opportunity to conduct a new election for our Overland Park store.

Learn the backstory

  • Read our Aug. 15, 2022 letter to the NLRB Chair and Inspector General regarding NLRB election misconduct.
  • Read the letter from the U.S. Chamber to the NLRB Inspector General, sent on Sept. 28, 2022, regarding impropriety in elections.
  • Read the letter sent by Senate and House Workforce Leaders on October 22, 2022.