NLRB Demands Starbucks’ Anti-Union CEO Record Video, Send Apologies to Workers

The National Labor Relations Board is demanding that Howard Schultz apologize personally to workers for union busting tactics.
Howard Schultz. Getty Images
Getty Images

The Biden administration wants Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to read his employees their union rights on video and send them apology letters for illegally withholding raises from union workers.

The National Labor Relations Board found in a complaint filed on Wednesday that the company is unlawfully withholding benefits from employees in unionized or unionizing stores. It alleges that Schultz, who is worth roughly $4 billion, threatened employees and told them it would be “futile” to side with the union on several occasions, including “during a video call to all US employees, in a corporate weekly update, and in a Quarter 2 earnings call,” according to a statement from the NLRB

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It also alleges that the company set up a benefits program that would be exclusive to non-unionized workers, that would include “higher pay, faster sick time accrual, increased training opportunities, and more.” 

Most notably and most comically, the NLRB is demanding that Schultz record a video confessing his alleged violations of labor law and explaining the rights of workers in front of union employees, a representative of the union, and a representative of Biden’s NLRB. A recording of the video will need to be made available, according to the complaint:

“At a meeting or meetings scheduled to ensure the widest possible attendance, have Howard Schultz read both the Notice to Employees and an Explanation of Rights to all employees employed by Respondent on work time in the presence of a Board agent and a representative of the Union, or have a Board agent read the Notice to Employees and an Explanation of Rights to employees employed by Respondent on work time in the presence of a representative of the Union and Howard Schultz, and that a video recording of the reading of the Notice to Employees and the Explanation of Rights shall be made, with the recording being distributed to employees by electronic means or by mail.”

As part of its complaint, the NLRB is demanding that Schultz post a notice to Starbucks workers about their rights, and also that he read it into a camera, personally, and write them letters of apology. It’s also seeking remedies for those denied benefits, and training sessions for managers and supervisors on the National Labor Relations Act.

Since the complaint was issued, the two sides have a chance to settle, otherwise there will be a hearing in October, where a decision will be issued. Complaints are issued by the NLRB after an investigation has already been undertaken by NLRB employees.

A spokesperson for Starbucks Workers United told Motherboard they are looking forward to seeing Schultz apologize but are also not holding their breath. “Unfortunately not. The reason the Complaint was issued is because the company is challenging the charges by the NLRB. A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 25. We likely won't actually get a video from Schultz until months (or years) down the line since they will most likely continue delaying & appealing the decision.” 

Starbucks denied the NLRB’s allegations: “We’ve been clear in that we are following NLRB rules when it comes to unilaterally giving benefits,” said Reggie Borges, a Starbucks spokesman, told the Washington Post.

Since late 2021, more than 230 locations have joined Starbucks Workers United, in a massive wave of organizing efforts across the country. The company has been accused of blatant union-busting tactics, including firing pro-union workers and shutting down entire unionized stores.