Starbucks asks labor board to suspend mail-in ballot union elections, alleging misconduct in voting process

Starbucks Workers United t-shirts hang outside while unionized workers strike for unfair labor practices outside a Starbucks location on 874 Commonwealth Avenue in the Brookline neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, US, on Tuesday, July 19, 2022.

Scott Brauer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Starbucks is asking the federal labor board to suspend all mail-in ballot union elections nationwide, alleging that the board’s personnel and the union organizing its baristas tampered with the voting process.

The coffee giant wrote in a letter to the National Labor Relations Board chairman and general counsel on Monday that the labor board’s officials engaged in misconduct during an election in the Kansas City area and has likely acted similarly in other elections. Starbucks cited a career NLRB professional who approached the company as a whistleblower.

More than 220 Starbucks cafes in the U.S. have voted to unionize, according to an NLRB tally as of Friday. An additional 34 elections have been ordered or are in progress, and seven more stores are waiting to schedule elections.

In addition for asking for a pause on all scheduled mail-in elections, Starbucks is requesting that all future elections will be held in person while the allegations can be investigated.

NLRB officials allegedly coordinated with union agents to arrange for in-person voting at the labor board’s offices during mail-in ballot elections, according to the company. Starbucks also alleges that Workers United agents were given confidential, real-time information about specific vote counts so the union could target employees who hadn’t voted yet. NLRB officials and Workers United then allegedly coordinated to cover up this activity, the company said.

Starbucks’ letter includes emails purportedly from union representatives and labor board officials, corroborating its accusations. The company said it received the documentation from the whistleblower.

(With inputs from CNBC)