Bureau of National Affairs, Inc.
January 22, 2009
Starbucks Settles ULP Charges Over Firing At Michigan Store, But Union Refuses
A National Labor Relations Board regional director in Detroit Jan. 16 approved
a settlement agreement with Starbucks Corp. resolving allegations of unfair
labor practices by the Starbucks Workers Union (SWU), an affiliate of the
Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), filed with NLRB Region
7 (Starbucks Corp.
Coffee Co., N.L.R.B. Reg. Dir., No. 7-CA-51190, settlement
The NLRB regional office in Detroit had found sufficient evidence to establish
an employer violation of the National Labor Relations Act at a Starbucks store
in Grand Rapids, Mich., according to Stephen Glasser, NLRB regional director for
The Grand Rapids Starbucks Workers Union (SWU) filed several charges April 15,
one of which NLRB found to be a possible violation of the act. On behalf of
fired worker Cole Dorsey, SWU claimed Starbucks illegally fired a worker who had
been involved in union activities.
Glasser said NLRB concluded there was sufficient evidence to establish Dorsey
was fired for his union activities and support for the union. “We thought we
could prove that,” he told BNA Jan. 9. Starbucks had said it fired Dorsey for
Reinstatement Not Required.
Under the settlement, reached one day before a trial was to be held, Starbucks
will expunge record of the termination from the employee's personnel file
and will post a notice for 60 days at the Grand Rapids, Mich., store outlining
employees' rights under the NLRA.
Under the settlement, Starbucks is not required to reinstate the employee or
issue back pay. Although the union had sought Dorsey's reinstatement, NLRB
determined that it would not be appropriate, Glasser said.
NLRB would not agree to allow a denial of company wrongdoing in the settlement,
but that does not mean Starbucks admits to wrongdoing, Glasser told BNA Jan. 21.
The union issued a statement Jan. 13 saying it is pleased the board found that
“Starbucks violated federal labor law by
firing” Dorsey. However, “since
the SWU prefers open trials to settlements and because Mr. Dorsey was
awarded the full array of remedies we believe he is entitled to, the union will
not be joining the agreement between Starbucks and the NLRB.”
SWU said Dorsey is “an outspoken union member working with his co-workers to
achieve secure work hours and fairness on the job.”
Glasser approved the settlement without a signature of a union representative
after the union declined to sign the settlement.
The union does not intend to appeal the settlement to the NLRB office in
Washington, D.C., Daniel Gross, an IWW organizer and former Starbucks employee,
said Jan. 21.
Among the charges SWU filed in April, the union also claimed Starbucks had
violated an earlier settlement agreement of unfair labor practice charges
reached in October 2007
(195 DLR A-5, 10/10/07). In that settlement agreement,
the employer said it will not interrogate employees about union activities or
restrain, coerce, or
interfere with employee rights under the NLRA.
Dorsey told BNA Jan. 9 that if the case had gone to trial, the union would have
been able to raise other issues as evidence. Dorsey maintained that he was fired
for filing a safety report with the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health
Administration about employees' hazardous mold concerns as the result of an
air conditioner leak at the store. Dorsey said Starbucks lawyers had
interrogated him about a meeting with MIOSHA.
In a Jan. 21 statement, Starbucks said, “We feel vindicated as the agreement
does not require reinstatement of or back pay to a partner whose termination we
believe was appropriate.”
The settlement in
Grand Rapids is the latest incident involving SWU claims of
anti-union practices at Starbucks.
In December, an NLRB administrative law judge found Starbucks had violated
workers' rights by restricting
activity on behalf of SWU and by firing three
workers because of their support for the labor organization (249 DLR A-1,
12/30/08). Gross was one of the three workers the ALJ found was fired for his
In October, Starbucks settled NLRB charges of unfair labor practices by
reinstating an employee in Minneapolis, providing back pay, and removing record
of the discipline from his personnel records (195 DLR A-9, 10/8/08). The alleged
unfair labor practice allegations in Minneapolis that NLRB determined to be
meritorious were related to concerted, protected activities, but not to union
In March 2006, Starbucks and IWW Industrial Union 660 reached a settlement in
New York of unfair labor practice charges alleging that two workers were
discharged for engaging in protected union activity (47 DLR A-2, 3/10/06).
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