Web Analytics Made Easy - Statcounter

Labor unions ask ILO to investigate Starbucks

Share this Post:
Photo by Mike Blake / Reuters
Photo by Mike Blake / Reuters

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the AFL-CIO have asked the International Labor Organization (ILO) to investigate Starbucks, charging the coffee giant with using gaps in US law to violate its workers' rights.

The SEIU is the parent union of Starbucks Workers United, which has made remarkable gains against the Starbucks corporation in a little over one year of its unionization drive. The AFL-CIO is a labor federation that includes many of the country's largest unions. The ILO is a UN agency based in Geneva charged with monitoring violations of workers' rights.

The complaint, filed on May 11, asks for an ILO investigation because US laws and enforcement mechanisms are "woefully inadequate to deal with a big, powerful employer determined to crush union organizing."

The SEIU and the AFL-CIO explain that the US lacks speedy ways to decide labor disputes as required under ILO standards, allowing Starbucks to exploit "excessive delays to frustrate organizing and bargaining rights."

The complaint also requests an "on-the-spot mission" to interview Starbucks management, workers, union staffers, and government officials in connection with the complaint.

Starbucks workers charge management has retaliated against their organizing efforts with intimidation, firings, and closures on unionized stores — including the Denny and Broadway store on Seattle's Capitol Hill. Such actions violate ILO principles, which Starbucks explicitly agreed to follow in its 2020 Global Human Rights Statement.

Employees at more than 300 US corporate-owned Starbucks locations have voted to unionize since late 2021, but none have yet struck a deal on working conditions and wages.

Workers say Starbucks is guilty of bad-faith bargaining — also against ILO principles and a violation of US labor law. Specifically, workers say the company has attempted to draw out contract bargaining in hopes that pro-union employees will quit in frustration, allowing management to hire antiunion replacements.

Since late April, three Starbucks locations in New York have asked to vote on whether to decertify the union — in other words, to cancel union representation of their stores.

In a statement responding to the ILO complaint, Starbucks said that the National Labor Relations Act provides due process "if deployed appropriately."

The company "has not created excessive delays in the organizing process as alleged" and "in the vast majority of elections, Starbucks has accepted the will of the voting partners and has sought to engage in good-faith, in-person collective bargaining negotiations," it said.

In the past, Starbucks has denied retaliating against organizers, accused US labor officials of improper conduct, and said it prefers direct relations with individual employees rather than bargaining with a union.