An administrative law judge found Starbucks engaged in unfair labor practices at several of its New York coffee shops.
NEW YORK — An administrative law judge found Starbucks engaged in unfair labor practices at several of its New York coffee shops, the company said today.
The ruling by Judge Mindy E. Landow, dated Friday, states that work rules were unfairly imposed on Starbucks’ workers who supported a union that has been attempting to gain a foothold at the gourmet coffee retailer.
Starbucks spokeswoman Tara Darrow said the company plans to appeal the ruling.
“While we respect the National Labor Relations Board process, we are disappointed with this decision and intend to appeal it to the next stage in the process,” she said in a statement.
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The case began in March 2006 when the Industrial Workers of the World filed charges against the company alleging Starbucks interrogated employees, implemented new policies and disciplined or fired workers for supporting the union at four of its coffee shops in Manhattan.
Starbucks, meanwhile, said the workers were fired or disciplined because they violated the company’s policies or threatened managers.
After several of those charges were settled in 2006, the union filed new charges that alleged the company unfairly prohibited employees from posting items related to the union on bulletin boards, wearing more than one pro-union button at a time and talking about the union while off-duty.
Friday’s ruling dismisses several of the allegations, including several involving the company’s dress code, while supporting others.
The ruling requires Starbucks to, within 14 days, give three former workers their jobs back and compensate them for any lost earnings. The company must also post a notice telling workers it will allow them to discuss the union while off-duty, post materials related to the union and wear more than one pro-union button at a time. The notice also informs workers they will not be fired for supporting the union.
Those requirements are pending appeal so it may be some time before they are instituted, if ever.
Darrow said the ruling was flawed since it did not answer the company’s claims that certain employees were fired for threatening managers.
“We are particularly disappointed that this decision did not take into consideration personal threats lodged toward our managers,” she said.
Both sides have 28 days to file an appeal, said Elbert Tellam, assistant to the regional director at the New York branch of the NLRB.
Tellam said the NLRB will be studying the ruling to determine its next step, adding, “We’re certainly gratified that the judge found in our favor in many respects.”
Daniel Gross, a member of the IWW and one of the workers the judge found to be unfairly fired, said in a statement that the decision shows Starbucks is “a union busting corporation that will go to staggering lengths to interfere with the right to free association.”