NLRB rules Starbucks violated labor laws at Capitol Hill location

Jun 22, 2023, 8:32 AM | Updated: 9:16 am

Starbucks red cup protest...

The Starbucks at Broadway and Denny, the site of a 'Red Cup Rebellion' protest on Nov. 17, shut down in December due to safety concerns. (Sam Campbell/KIRO Newsradio)

(Sam Campbell/KIRO Newsradio)

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a ruling Tuesday that Starbucks illegally hampered an employee from testifying at a hearing with the board.

The NLRB said that the company violated federal labor law by telling workers they can’t testify when subpoenaed unless they were able to get their shift covered. They also ruled that the company illegally told workers they could not perform union-related activities while on break.

NLRB: Starbucks violated labor laws, must negotiate with Roastery union

The employee, Rachel Ybarra, was told that they would be disciplined if they did not show up to their scheduled shift despite being subpoenaed by the NLRB.

“The board has found imposing potentially burdensome conditions on an employee as a prerequisite for attending a hearing pursuant to an NLRB subpoena constitutes a violation of [the National Labor Relations Act],” the ruling said.

Another employee, Joel Synder, also subpoenaed by the NLRB, was told by Roddy Clifton, Vice President of Human Resources at Starbucks, that if he missed work to testify, his absence would be grounds for a write-up. The report said that these instances did not show a neutral application of the policies of Starbucks, and while it did “not necessarily intend to discourage him from participating,” the company should have allowed the employees to testify without preconditions.

Ybarra was also told that they could not distribute union pins to customers or employees who asked for them, even during mandatory paid break time protected under the law. The manager later allowed them to distribute pins outside the store on their off time.

“Restrictions against ’employee solicitation and distribution of [union] materials during non-work time and in non-work areas is invalid,” the ruling said.

All this occurred at a Starbucks location that has since been shut down at Broadway E and Denny Way, citing safety concerns.

Starbucks previously lost a ruling that alleged that they violated labor laws by refusing to bargain with unionized employees at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery on Capitol Hill.

“We disagree with the Board’s decision issued this week and are exploring opportunities for further legal review,” a Starbucks spokesperson said in a statement.

The board issued a cease and desist order against Starbucks from doing these types of actions again.

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NLRB rules Starbucks violated labor laws at Capitol Hill location