Starbucks Just Won A Huge Victory In A Labor Trial

Ever since Howard Schultz signed back on as CEO of Starbucks on April 4, he has made it abundantly clear that Starbucks is not on board with employee efforts to unionize. Nevertheless, employees at many Starbucks stores have already voted to do just that, with hundreds of petitions pending with the National Labor Relations Board, per Copper Courier. Furthermore, the union's success rate as of May 31 has, thus far, been at nearly 90%, per Bloomberg Law

So, it's safe to say that Schultz has his work cut out for him if he has no intention of accepting that some Starbucks employees prefer to have their interests represented by Starbucks Workers United, the union that has been shepherding Starbucks into the organized future, one store at a time since August 2021 (via The Conversation). And who could blame him, given the power that unionized employees are proving themselves capable of wielding? On a single day in May, alone, Starbucks was hit with 29 charges of unfair labor practices including 200 alleged violations of the National Labor Relations Act, all of them arising out of the now-unionized Buffalo, New York region (per CNBC). 

But don't count Starbucks out just yet. This week, the Seattle coffee behemoth won a major victory against employee unionization efforts when it emerged the victor in a labor trial relating to a Phoenix, Arizona store that's currently in the midst of organizing.

The NLRB failed to make a compelling enough case

On Thursday, June 9, a federal judge sitting in the U.S. district court in Phoenix, Arizona handed Starbucks its first significant victory in its ongoing battle against employee efforts to unionize, per NPR. Judge John Tuchi rejected the National Labor Relations Board's request to reinstate three former employees who were allegedly fired in retaliation for their involvement in efforts to unionize at the Starbucks store located at the intersection of Scottsdale and Mayo in Phoenix, per Copper Courier. Notwithstanding the 39-page brief filed by the NLRB, alleging an ongoing pattern of harassment of these employees coinciding with their efforts to organize the store's employees, Judge Tuchi concluded that the NLRB has failed to present "sufficient evidence to support the ... unfair labor practice charge against Starbucks" (via The Hill). 

Starbucks apparently views Judge Tuchi's ruling as vindication in its ongoing battle against the Workers United union. "The ruling by the judge today is further evidence that any claims of anti-union activity are categorically false," Starbucks told The Hill. Nevertheless, the case is far from over; a trial before an NLRB judge is scheduled for this summer. As another union organizer from the same Phoenix store puts it, "the status of these workers still hangs in the balance because the NLRB administrative judge could have a different finding than this court found today" (via Copper Courier). Although Starbucks won this time around, union organizers remain firmly optimistic, according to NPR.