On July 6, 2023, Starbucks faced a lawsuit filed by the National Labour Relations Board (NLRB) alleging that the company unlawfully turned down the reappointment of 33 workers during the reorganisation of three Seattle chain stores, including the flagship store at Pike Place Market.
According to the petition filed in the Seattle federal court, Starbucks planned to transform the chain store into a ‘heritage district’ and required 73 workers to reapply for their positions, which the NLRB considers an illegal response to unionisation efforts at the 1st Avenue and Pike Street store. The NLRB claimed that by refusing to rehire 16 out of 22 workers at that store, Starbucks dampened the impact of employees’ support for the union at the other two stores, making it clear that unionisation would not be looked upon favourably.
The NLRB’s petition seeks an injunction to prevent Starbucks from terminating or disciplining workers based on their union activities, denying them fair wages and benefits, or compelling them to reapply for their jobs. Additionally, it wants Starbucks to offer reinstatement, along with back pay and benefits, to the 33 individuals who were not rehired.
Starbucks defended its actions by stating that workers at the stores have the option to pursue unionisation through an NLRB-supervised election. The company expressed its disagreement with the proposed remedies by the agency, stating that they go against the interests of their employees and pose a threat to the unique experience they provide to customers. Starbucks expressed its commitment to defending the establishment of its Heritage District.