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Starbucks Employees Take Yet Another Stand: Pushing for a Union Decertification This Time

In a recent development, employees at a Starbucks café in Rochester, NY, have filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to decertify the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) front group, known as Starbucks Workers United. This comes after the SEIU won an election in April 2022 with a narrow vote of 13-11. Another petition followed the Rochester petition for decertification filed two days later at a store in Manhattan. These events mark the second and third decertification attempts within the past two weeks, highlighting a growing trend among Starbucks employees.

Decertification petitions indicate that a significant number of workers in a store have decided they no longer wish to be represented by a union. The recent petitions in New York follow a similar move at a location in Buffalo, which was one of the first stores to unionize. The challenges associated with decertification arise from unions’ ability to file “blocking charges,” which involve the submission of unfair labor practices charges (ULPs) against the business where the decertification is sought. The NLRB then delays the decertification election until these charges are resolved. This tactic often denies workers the opportunity to choose their union representation. The previous administration attempted to address this issue by allowing decertification elections to proceed under certain circumstances, regardless of blocking charges. However, the current NLRB has moved to reverse those changes through new rulemaking.

In the case of the Buffalo store, Starbucks has raised concerns about the NLRB’s conduct during the original election campaign. These concerns include allegations that Board agents failed to deliver mail ballots to all eligible workers and erroneously invalidated two ballots, despite only 24 workers casting votes. Although the NLRB dismissed these charges, they add to existing criticisms of the Board’s impartiality, which an NLRB whistleblower previously exposed. Such circumstances raise legitimate questions about the fairness of the NLRB’s actions.

Decertification elections are relatively rare, and employers are not able to initiate them. Therefore, it remains to be seen whether these petitions will ultimately succeed. In previous instances, two decertification petitions at Starbucks locations in Oklahoma and Georgia were withdrawn before an election date was set. Nevertheless, these new petitions further indicate that SEIU’s campaign against Starbucks has hit obstacles and is facing challenges. Industry observers will closely watch the outcome of these recent decertification efforts.

When it comes to decertification efforts, unions often employ vigorous tactics to prevent their dissolution. They engage in a staunch defense, fighting tooth and nail to maintain their foothold within companies like Starbucks. One such strategy employed by unions is the utilization of “blocking charges.” By filing a series of unfair labor practices charges against the business where decertification is sought, unions effectively delay the decertification election until these charges are resolved. This maneuver aims to impede workers’ ability to exercise their choice in union representation. Despite previous attempts to address this issue, the battle between unions and employees seeking decertification continues to intensify, creating a challenging and contentious landscape. Expect a fight.

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