Some Starbucks employees at the Mockingbird Station location in Dallas are hoping to follow in the footsteps of more than 180 stores that have unionized across the country.
Various employees at the store believe the company is engaging in questionable tactics to discourage employees from organizing since they began the process in late May, as reported previously in The Dallas Express.
Pro-union store “partners,” the term Starbucks uses to describe employees, allege that in the weeks since the decision to organize became public, employees suffered intimidation by management, had their hours reduced, and some had even been fired.
Nikita Russell is one of the Mockingbird Station employees leading the unionization drive. She told The Dallas Express that since the effort became public, management increased disciplinary actions.
“It seems like they are strictly enforcing attendance and the dress code,” Russell said. “For instance, I was given my first corrective action for being 14 minutes late, three weeks prior. When it happened, I talked with management and they didn’t even give me a verbal coaching because my attendance has been consistently good.”
Starbucks insists that the corporation has every intention of fairly and legally working with stores that choose to unionize.
“We are listening and learning from the partners in these stores as we always do across the country,” a Starbucks spokesperson stated to The Dallas Express. “From the beginning, we’ve been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us, and that conviction has not changed. We’ve also been clear that we respect our partners’ legal right to organize and will bargain in good faith with the stores that vote to be represented by the union.”
Russell claims that “anti-union actions” by management increased after the employees staged a walk-out strike on June 25. She said that since that incident, the store’s management had been replaced, a move that she claimed is commonplace at stores petitioning for unionization.
She alleges the new manager at Mockingbird Station does things like pull employees off the floor during busy times, sometimes for as long as an hour, simply to have disciplinary conversations with them.
“She has done a lot of union-busting, she’s had very illegal conversations with many of us. She has told one of our baristas that she will lose college benefits or will have to vote ‘No’ in order to be eligible to transfer [out of the store],” Russell alleged.
“These allegations are false,” a Starbucks spokesperson wrote in a statement. “A partner’s interest in union representation does not exempt them from the standards we have always held. We will continue to enforce our policies consistently, fairly, and transparently – this has nothing to do with the store voting to unionize. Any claims of anti-union activity are patently false. We have fully honored the process laid out by the [National Labor Relations Board] and encouraged our partners to exercise their right to vote in these elections to have their voice heard.”
Labor organizing in the United States is governed by a balance of federal and individual state laws.
Per the National Labor Relations Act, employees have “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection,” as well as the right “to refrain from any or all such activities.”
Companies may not “interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed” by the National Labor Relations Act.
Texas’ laws make it a “right-to-work” state, where individual employees are protected from government-enforced union requirements like mandatory, unauthorized paycheck deductions for dues, constraints on intra-company job mobility, and forced association within the union itself.
It is not clear whether any of the actions alleged by employees of the Mockingbird Station Starbucks violate any laws. Currently, there are no known claims by employees with the National Labor Relations Board, though claims are typically kept confidential.
Starbucks employees are working with Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union. Organizers said they hope that unionization would improve their bargaining power, ensure better equipment maintenance, improve working conditions, and extend benefits packages.
“If Starbucks believes in supporting the rights of its partners, it must recognize that it is not up to corporate to decide whether unions are necessary, but rather up to us, the Starbucks partners,” the website for Starbucks Workers United reads.
The Mockingbird Station store will hold its vote to determine whether employees will unionize at the end of July.
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