Starbucks Baristas Just Got Help With Their Unionization Push

Starbucks is continuing to make headlines for its staunch opposition to the worker-led unionization drives that have proliferated across the nation since February, and now the U.S. government is suing Starbucks for its alleged retaliation against union organizers who work at the coffee company. The lawsuit from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) came just two days after Starbucks sued the board themselves on April 20 on the grounds that union organizers were using illegal tactics to rally Starbucks employees, per CNBC.

In the ricochet lawsuit, a press release from the NLRB cites "three cases involving Starbucks retaliating against members of the union organizing committee," claiming that, "among other things," Starbucks "disciplined, suspended, and discharged one employee, constructively discharged another, and placed a third on an unpaid leave of absence after revoking recently granted accommodations." The NLRB is also accusing Starbucks of over 200 National Labor Relations Act violations, per CNBC. As of this week, Starbucks workers who have faced consequences from their employers for their unionization efforts just got an incentive to keep pushing; a $1 million union fund will "cover lost pay for baristas who go on strike," CNBC reports.

Workers United is footing the bill

The $1 million fund comes from the pockets of the Service Employees International Union affiliate Workers United, whose international organizing director told CNBC that the fund "will allow all workers to take the type of collective action necessary as they fight for a fair contract." Per CNBC, 100 Starbucks locations have voted to unionize under the affiliate, while a comparatively meager 14 locations oppose unionizing. In the liminal period between union votes, rallies are a way for workers to express their demands. By covering lost pay, the fund could potentially spark an even bigger wave of Starbucks baristas who want to unionize but are afraid of the consequences and can't afford a slimmed-down paycheck. 

While Starbucks has consistently denied allegations of union-busting, workers are clearly getting a different story from their fellow baristas — over a dozen of whom have been fired since the union drive began in Buffalo, per Vice. Starbucks has attempted to discourage workers from unionizing by offering perks like improved health benefits to non-union employees, per Today, but the fight continues.