Bloomberg Law
March 16, 2022, 7:02 PMUpdated: March 16, 2022, 9:09 PM

Starbucks Loses Labor Board Appeal Over Union’s Methods (1)

Ian Kullgren
Ian Kullgren

The National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday rejected an appeal by Starbucks Corp. over the size of proposed bargaining units at half a dozen U.S. stores.

The coffee purveyor had asked the NLRB to review regional directors’ rulings that allowed Starbucks Workers United to organize store by store, instead of at the regional level.

The company had argued it was barred from submitting evidence to support its position against single-store bargaining units. But the board said in a one-sentence decision that Starbucks had raised “no substantial issues warranting review.”

The decision leaves Starbucks with few legal options to slow the union’s momentum, assuming it expands a pledge to bargain “in good faith” with the first union store in Buffalo, N.Y. The company could still refuse to bargain with the union as a way to challenge the NLRB’s handling of the issue in federal court.

The decision came hours after Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson announced he would step down next month and be temporarily replaced by former executive Howard Schultz, and as leaders of Starbucks Workers United met virtually with members of the House Labor Caucus.

It also came one day after the NLRB found that Starbucks violated federal labor law by surveilling and retaliating against union supporters. The company “has been interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees” seeking to exercise their labor rights, the board’s regional director in Phoenix wrote.

Lawmakers and the union expressed concern about Schultz, who traveled to Buffalo, N.Y. to persuade employees against forming the first union at a corporate-owned store in the U.S.

“It’s very clear to all of us that Howard Schultz was brought in to ramp up union-busting efforts,” Casey Moore, a barista and union leader, told reporters after meeting with lawmakers.

Rep. Donald Norcross, a New Jersey Democrat and longtime member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said it is “fundamentally wrong” that Starbucks is allowed to legally discourage organizing under federal labor law.

“I’m not drinking Starbucks starting today,” Norcross said.

(Updated with additional reporter throughout. )

To contact the reporter on this story: Ian Kullgren in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Harris at, Melissa B. Robinson at