The New York Times reports that "in a sign that federal labor officials are closely scrutinizing management behavior during union campaigns, the National Labor Relations Board said Friday that it had found merit in accusations that Amazon and Starbucks had violated labor law.
"At Amazon, the labor board found merit to charges that the company had required workers to attend anti-union meetings at a vast Staten Island warehouse where the Amazon Labor Union won a stunning election victory last month … In the same filing of charges, the Amazon Labor Union accused the company of threatening to withhold benefits from employees if they voted to unionize, and of inaccurately indicating to employees that they could be fired if the warehouse were to unionize and they failed to pay union dues. The labor board also found merit to these accusations."
At Starbucks, the Times writes, "where the union has won initial votes at more than 50 stores since December, the labor board issued a complaint Friday over a series of charges the union filed, most of them in February, accusing the company of illegal behavior.
"Those accusations include firing employees in retaliation for supporting the union; threatening employees’ ability to receive new benefits if they choose to unionize; requiring workers to be available for a minimum number of hours to remain employed at a unionized store without bargaining over the change, as a way to force out at least one union supporter; and effectively promising benefits to workers if they decide not to unionize.
"In addition to those allegations, the labor board found merit to accusations that the company intimidated workers by closing Buffalo-area stores and engaging in surveillance of workers while they were on the job. All of those actions would be illegal."
Amazon responded to the NLRB move by saying that the charges are false and that it would prove it during the process. Starbucks said much the same thing, pointing out that "the complaint doesn’t constitute a judgment by the labor board."
This isn't the only labor story involving these two companies.
• The New York Times writes that Amazon has informed "more than a half-dozen senior managers involved with the Staten Island warehouse that they were being fired, according to four current and former employees with knowledge of the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation.
"The firings, which occurred outside the company’s typical employee review cycle, were seen by the managers and other people who work at the facility as a response to the victory by the Amazon Labor Union, three of the people said. Workers at the warehouse voted by a wide margin to form the first union at the company in the United States, in one of the biggest victories for organized labor in at least a generation … Many of the managers had been responsible for implementing the company’s response to the unionization effort. Several were veterans of the company, with more than six years of experience, according to their LinkedIn profiles."
• CNBC reports that "Starbucks is asking the White House for a meeting after President Joe Biden met with an organizer who is helping its coffee shops unionize.
"The president met with 39 national labor leaders on Thursday, including Christian Smalls, who heads the Amazon Labor Union, and Laura Garza, a union leader at Starbucks’ New York City Roastery. Biden has been a vocal supporter of unions, from the campaign trail to his time in the Oval Office, during a time when high-profile labor drives at companies such as Amazon, Apple and Conde Nast are making headlines.
"A.J. Jones, Starbucks’ head of global communications and public affairs, wrote in a letter Thursday that the decision to not invite any representatives from the company was deeply concerning."
- KC's View:
It is hard for me to believe that in the long term, companies like Starbucks and Amazon are going to run the table when it comes to labor victories.
That said, it is important to keep labor's so-called progress in some sort of context. After all, employees - whether unionized or not - that are getting raises may find them to be illusory, since they are not keeping up with current inflation rates. They may be getting more money, but at the same time they may have diminished spending power.
Which may only heighten management-labor tensions.