Starbucks sent a letter to the National Labor Relations Board Monday asking the body to suspend all mail-in ballot union elections across the country, claiming the labor board and Starbucks Workers United committed misconduct during the voting process, according to multiple news outlets.
The coffee chain, citing a NLRB career official who came forward as a whistleblower, said officials acted inappropriately during an election in the Kansas City region and has likely operated similarly in other elections, including in Seattle and Buffalo, New York, according to CNBC.
The company claims labor officials manipulated the voting process to help Starbucks Workers United win, including by providing real-time vote counts so that the union could reach out to employees who hadn’t yet voted.
Starbucks has requested scheduled mail-in elections be suspended until these allegations have been investigated. Starbucks did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Starbucks has attempted to slow the union’s efforts, previously asking the NLRB to refuse elections on a store-by-store basis and instead bundle them by region. In May, the company said it would raise wages and expand company benefits, such as student loan refinancing, skills recognition programs and in-app tipping, but said those perks wouldn’t be available to union workers. New benefits aren’t allowed without bargaining, Starbucks previously told Restaurant Dive.
Despite these efforts, unionization continues to gain momentum across the country. Of Starbucks’ nearly 9,000 cafes, over 200 stores have voted to unionize, according to Reuters. Workers United said in June it will commit $1 million to a strike fund for Starbucks workers. Several cafes went on one-day strikes, and a Boston cafe launched an indefinite strike in July.
In May, the NLRB’s Buffalo Regional Office issued a complaint against Starbucks, claiming the coffee chain violated workers’ rights across western New York, but it could take years before any consequences against the company can be enforced.