From the Associated Press:
"A federal labor judge has ordered Starbucks to reinstate seven fired workers, reopen a shuttered location and stop infringing on workers’ rights after finding that the company violated labor laws 'hundreds of times' during a unionization campaign in Buffalo, New York.
"The decision issued late Wednesday by Administrative Law Judge Michael Rosas of the National Labor Relations Board requires Starbucks to post a 13-page notice listing its labor violations and workers’ rights in all U.S. stores.
"The order also requires Starbucks’ interim CEO Howard Schultz to read or be present at a reading of employees’ rights and distribute a recording of the reading to all of Starbucks’ U.S. employees.
"Rosas cited Starbucks’ 'egregious and widespread misconduct' in his 200-page decision, which consolidated 35 unfair labor practice complaints at 21 Buffalo-area stores filed by Starbucks Workers United, the labor union organizing Starbucks’ stores. Rosas found that Starbucks had threatened employees, spied on them and more strictly enforced dress codes and other policies."
- KC's View:
I suspect that Starbucks will use every legal option available to it to fight this decision, and certainly won't want Schultz to be involved in an "employees' right" reading.
But I'm really glad that the judge made this part of his decision - Schultz has been the face of Starbucks' anti-union activities, except when the US Senate wants him to come in to testify.
Here's how a recent CNN story framed the Schultz position:
"When Schultz re-joined the company last year, he spent months visiting with employees as part of a listening tour that helped him develop a new roadmap for the company, which he said had 'lost its way.'
"'I’ve talked to thousands of our Starbucks partners,' he told (CNN reporter Poppy) Harlow. 'I was shocked, stunned to hear the loneliness, the anxiety, the fracturing of trust in government, fracturing of trust in companies, fracturing of trust in families, the lack of hope in terms of opportunity.'
"American companies are 'faced with unionization because [workers are] upset, not so much with the company, but the situation.'
"Still, Starbucks made some specific missteps, he said, during his absence.
"Before he became interim CEO last year Schultz served in the top spot from 1987 to 2000, and then again from 2008 to 2017. But even when he had ceded the role for the final time, he remained involved as chairman of the board — until 2018, when he retired … Especially during the pandemic, 'some decisions were made that I would not have made,' he said, without specifying which. When asked for more details, a spokesperson pointed to the resumption of training programs in 2022.
"'As a result of that, I think people did lose trust in the leadership of the company.'
"Efforts to unionize, he said, were spurred 'because Starbucks was not leading in a way that was consistent with its history.'
"Still, he sees the union as a relatively minor issue that represents the desires of a small group of people."
Okay, let's deconstruct this a bit.
First, I'm glad he talked to thousands of Starbucks employees during his listening tour. I'd love to know if he spent more time talking or listening. And, when he was listening, was he actually hearing.
I'm sure workers are upset with lots of things, but I wouldn't discount the possibility that they are as upset with their employer as much as anything else - especially since Schultz's sense of personal moral superiority is based on the idea that the company did dumb stuff when he wasn't there, stuff he wouldn't have done had he remained involved.
Which, by the way, is nonsense. For example, one of the things that has upset employees is the fact that the stores were not built for the business they were doing. For example, they were built for a world in which hot drinks dominated, but cold drinks now are more popular. I'd be willing to bet that this shift already was underway the last time Schultz was CEO, and isn't it the job of a great CEO to be able to stay ahead of the wave?
The next CEO (what the hell is his name again?) will have a real challenge. He will have to have his eyes firmly fixed on the future, but he'll also have to have eyes in the back of his head, since Schultz's shadow will be looming.