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Federal labor board accuses Bay Area Starbucks of threatening unionizing workers

A San Pablo Starbucks has been cited for labor violations by the National Labor Relations Board. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a federal agency that enforces labor law, filed a complaint against Starbucks for unfair labor practices targeting workers at a location in San Pablo in the East Bay.

The complaint alleges that workers at the location at 14330 San Pablo Ave. were threatened by store managers with penalties such as the loss of training, repairs and higher wages for supporting or participating in a unionization drive.

It also says that Starbucks managers implied that workers’ organizing activities were under surveillance and they could be rewarded with additional benefits if they abstained from unionizing. 

Among the allegations made were that management forced workers into mandatory anti-union meetings during work hours, said off-duty employees were banned from coming to the store and falsely said that the union was a for-profit business, according to the filing. Starbucks did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The NLRB is pursuing civil prosecution against Starbucks for the alleged infractions and is seeking to ensure workers are notified by physical postings and electronic messages of their protected rights.

A hearing on the case is scheduled for July 17 at the Oakland regional NLRB office.

Starbucks Workers United, the national organizing coalition for the union drive, said that the NLRB has issued more than 60 separate complaints against Starbucks for actions in violation of federal law, including one for activities during a union drive at the “BearBucks” location in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood.

The nationwide Starbucks unionization effort started with a location in Buffalo, New York, that successfully organized a union. Since then, more than 250 locations across the country have voted to form a union.

Collective bargaining talks have been largely drawn out amid allegations from union representatives that Starbucks is failing to bargain fairly. 

An NLRB complaint filed in December found that Starbucks illegally refused to negotiate at a number of unionized locations in the Pacific Northwest.

Kevin Truong can be reached at