Bloomberg Law
May 9, 2023, 4:48 PMUpdated: May 10, 2023, 5:27 PM

Starbucks Union Hit With Second New York Decertification Bid (2)

Parker Purifoy
Parker Purifoy

Workers at a Starbucks Corp. cafe in Rochester, N.Y., have asked the National Labor Relations Board to remove Starbucks Workers United as their labor union.

The decertification petition, filed Monday, is the second bid in the last two weeks to oust the union from a Starbucks location. The first came late last month from a cafe in Buffalo, the geographic origin of the unionization campaign that has spread to over 300 Starbucks stores in the last 18 months.

Workers at the store on Mount Hope Avenue near the University of Rochester initially voted 13-11 to be represented by Starbucks Workers United on April 7, 2022, but the company challenged the results.

Starbucks alleged that NLRB regional officials in Buffalo failed to deliver mail ballots to all of the workers and incorrectly voided two ballots. Buffalo’s regional director dismissed the objections and certified SBWU as the workers’ representative on April 26, according to NLRB records.

The company took the case up to the full board in Washington, which dismissed its claims.

A viable decertification bid must be filed at least a year after the unit’s certification, with proof that at least 30% of the workers support an effort to unseat the union, according to NLRB rules.

Out of more than 295 certified units, none have negotiated a first contract or even a tentative agreement, and negotiations have stalled amid accusations of bad-faith bargaining. SBWU has lodged hundreds of unfair labor practice charges against the coffee giant, accusing it of various labor law violations, including hampering negotiations to undermine the union’s support and keep unionized workers from getting a contract.

NLRB lawyers have issued over 85 complaints against Starbucks based on these charges, which have resulted in two decisions from the board and 12 decisions from administrative law judges, according to NLRB records. The board’s judges found that Starbucks committed labor law violations in all but one case.

Starbucks says SBWU has illegally broadcast sessions by patching in representatives from across the country on Zoom. The company has filed dozens of its own bad-faith bargaining ULPs with the NLRB, which has rejected those charges.

Two other decertification petitions were lodged at cafes in Oklahoma in October 2022 and in Georgia in April 2023, but they were withdrawn before an election date could be set.

SBWU’s lawyers have said the union plans to file blocking charges in the case of a decertification campaign. The charges would require the NLRB to set aside results from a decertification election until the underlying ULP allegations are litigated.

The NLRB has proposed to reinstate rules allowing the suspension of the election while the ULPs are under investigation, a move backed by agency General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo.

“As with any NLRB petition, our focus is to ensure partners can trust their voice is heard and the process is fair,” Starbucks spokesman Andrew Trull said by email.

SBWU spokesperson Casey Moore said in an emailed statement that the union expects the decertification petitions to be dismissed.

“Starbucks has launched an intensive, scorched-earth union-busting campaign against its workers across the board. This is just another tactic Starbucks is using to try to intimidate workers and to silence our voices,” Moore said. “When Starbucks loses an election, they should learn to respect democracy, not trample it.”

(Updated with statement from union spokesperson Casey Moore. Story originally published May 9.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Parker Purifoy in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Laura D. Francis at; Martha Mueller Neff at

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