Starbucks files unfair labor charges against union organizers for 'disturbing behavior'

Starbucks says it respects 'the right for partners to choose to speak for themselves in the workplace or have Workers United speak for them'

Coffee giant Starbucks is firing back at the unions targeting its stores, alleging dirty tactics. 

On Wednesday, the company filed unfair labor practice charges against some organizers, claiming they have shown a "consistent pattern of disturbing behavior" that has increasingly become "more aggressive" since the fall. 

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
SBUX STARBUCKS CORP. 79.65 -0.59 -0.74%

The charges filed are against Workers United organizers at Starbucks locations in Denver, Colorado, and Phoenix, Arizona, which have "unlawfully restrained and coerced partners in the exercise of their rights" for over the past six months, according to documents sent to the National Labor Relations Board and obtained by FOX Business. 

The move comes weeks after Howard Schultz, who built the company into a global giant, resumed the role of CEO, replacing Kevin Johnson, who retired. 

Howard Schultz (Joshua Trujillo, Starbucks)

The National Labor Relations Board did not immediately return FOX Business' request for comment. 


AJ Jones, senior vice president of global communications and public affairs for Starbucks, told FOX Business Wednesday that the company acted in order to protect employees, otherwise known as partners, across the nation.

Conversely, Workers United, which is heading the union push, argued "these charges are a continuation of Starbucks' war against its own partners."

"Our partners have been facing this type of behavior since the fall of last year, and we have seen not only the volume of that behavior increase but also the consistency of it, the intensity of it, the targeting of it and also the acceleration of it…" 

- AJ Jones, senior vice president of global communications and public affairs for Starbucks


In Denver, according to the paperwork, organizes have allegedly been blocking the ingress and egress of a store on East Colfax Avenue. The company also said organizers are "making threats, bullying and physically intimidating partners in retaliation for their decision not to support Workers United’s organizing drive." The company also claimed that the organizers were "doing the same to customers in retaliation for their continued loyalty to and patronage of the store." 

Starbucks union

Pro-union pins sit on a table during a watch party for Starbucks' employees union election, Dec. 9, 2021, in Buffalo, New York. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex, File / AP Newsroom)

In Phoenix, Starbucks claims organizers also blocked the ingress and egress of a store on East Mayo Boulevard, while also "surrounding the store and pounding on the windows." 

The company continued: "The conduct of which was reasonably expected to physically intimidate and bully partners and customers in retaliation for their withholding support of Workers United."  

Jones said similar issues have been popping up at locations across the country and "by no means should one think that it's only in these areas." 

He also hinted that more charges could be filed in other areas of the country. Anywhere where there is "egregious behavior," the company will take "appropriate actions and steps to protect our partners and their voices," according to Jones. 

In fact, by filing these charges, Jones said Starbucks is proving to employees that it "will do what is necessary to protect their rights and their voice no matter what side of the spectrum they may be on about this union discussion." 


Likewise, Starbucks’ North American head Rossann Williams said in a letter to employees Wednesday that the company respects "the right for partners to choose to speak for themselves in the workplace or have Workers United speak for them." 

However, "that right can’t override the fundamental responsibility we all have, as partners, to treat one another with dignity and respect," she continued. 

Meanwhile, Workers United told FOX Business Wednesday that "it takes a lot of gall for a company that's launched one of the most aggressive & intense anti-union campaigns in modern history to file these charges." 

Workers United also said that it has already filed over 80 unfair labor practice charges against Starbucks for its "illegal campaign against its workforce, consisting of many hundreds of allegations of brutal and illegal anti-union activity." 

To date, more than 200 stores in 29 states have already filed a petition to unionize with the labor board. 

 "Starbucks is getting desperate as it loses this war in battle after battle, because we--the Starbucks partners--continue to organize and fight for a real voice within the company, the organization said. "These charges are just the latest example of that desperation."

The Starbucks Workers United Organizing Committee told FOX Business earlier this month that they don't have a "real voice in the company." 

"We’re organizing to create a true partnership with Starbucks and create a democratic workplace, so we can ultimately fight to make Starbucks a better company and better place to work," the group continued.