Starbucks has been accused of illegal discrimination against its staff who are union members.

The New York Times reports federal labor regulators claiming Starbucks has denied unionized staff wage and benefit increases given to other staff who are not unionized.

A regional office of the National Labor Relations Board has accused the coffee giant of breaking the law when chief executive Howard Schultz “promised increased wages and benefits at U.S. stores if its employees rejected the union as their bargaining representative.”

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The labor board wants affected employees to be reimbursed, as well as demanding Schultz read a notice to all Starbucks employees telling them some had been unlawfully denied benefits and pay rises and to explain their rights under federal law.

The case is scheduled for a hearing on October 25, unless Starbucks decided to settle beforehand.

Starbucks said that it was required under federal law to negotiate changes in wages and benefits with the union and that it was therefore not allowed to make such changes unilaterally, as it can in nonunion stores.

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A statement from the company said: “Wage and benefits are ‘mandatory’ subjects of the collective bargaining process.

Maggie Carter, a worker who helped unionize her store in Knoxville, Tenn, said in a statement.

“He claims to run a ‘different kind of company,’ yet in reality, Howard Schultz is simply a billionaire bully who is doing everything he can to crush workers’ rights.”

More than 225 out of roughly 9,000 corporate-owned Starbucks locations in the United States have voted to unionize since last fall.

Schultz is in his third spell as chief executive, and had begun to indicate new benefits for staff – but only non-unionized employees- after starting in April.

The benefits include additional career development opportunities, better tipping options and more sick time – but only for non-unionised stores.

Wage increases were also announced, which the company said would apply to all its stuff.

But more new increases, were only for non-union workers.

According to Reggie Borges, a Starbucks spokesman, all employees stood to benefit from a companywide $15-an-hour minimum wage, but nonunion workers hired by May 2 would get a three percent raise if that proved higher than $15.

Workers involved in union campaigns said the denial of pay and benefit increases to unionized stores had slowed their organizing efforts.

Kylah Clay, a Starbucks worker in Boston who helped organize several stores in the area, said inquiries from employees at other stores about unionizing had dropped off substantially shortly after the announcement in May.

She added they have picked up recently after the pay and benefit changes took effect.

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