The retail industry has been challenged for some years now, not only because of increasing digitisation, but also increasing inflationary pressures; as highlighted by a recent lawsuit against Starbucks by the US Labour Board. The company is being asked to reinstate a group of activist employees by labour officals in federal court, following allegations of employment retaliation.
According to the complaint, Starbucks retaliated against the three employees because of their union involvement, as well as their participation in a subsequent labour board investigation. The claim seeks an injunction requiring the reinstatement of affected employees, and comes in response to dozens of allegations made against the company by unions, of which prosecutors have found merit in some.
The lawsuit escalates the legal battle over Starbucks response to union campaigning sweeping through its stores. Beginning in 2021, a number of the company’s baristas, referred to as ”partners”, commenced unionisation in a variety of forms, including into Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, which petitions on behalf of thousands of Starbucks employees.
In response, Starbucks has announced that it disagrees with the labour board’s claims, stating that any claims of anti-union activity are categorically false, and that they respect their employees right to organise. Furthermore, the company has reiterated that stringent standards are in place to protect all stakeholders, and employees are provided with a welcoming and safe workplace.
Starbucks was founded in 1971 as a coffee bean roaster and equipment retailer. Since its modest beginnings as a corner shop in downtown Seattle, the company has grown to a network of over 30,000 coffee houses in 84 countries across the world. Impressively, it continues to increase top line revenue and bottom line profit, despite the recent headwinds faced by the sector.