Starbucks Worker’s Brief: Proceed with Vote to Remove Union Opposed by Majority of Workers

Labor Board asked to reject union-backed move to disenfranchise majority of workers who petitioned for decertification election

New York, NY (June 2, 2023) –National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys have filed a brief with National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 2 asking the NLRB not to dismiss the worker-led decertification effort. The brief is part of the case that began when Manhattan Starbucks Roastery worker Kevin Caesar filed a decertification petition with the NLRB seeking a secret-ballot election to end union officials’ so-called “representation."

Caesar’s petition, which was filed on May 9, has the support of a majority of his coworkers who want to remove Starbucks Workers United (SBWU) from their workplace. Caesar is receiving free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.

“We have seen our workplace both with and without the union. We believe that the union is looking out for itself more than it is looking out for Starbucks partners, who do not want forced dues and can advocate for ourselves. That is why a majority of us have decided we would be better off without the union. The fact that the union officials have forced us to go through this decertification process despite the majority of workers stating they do not want to be represented by this union shows how little regard the union has for the will of the workers. We call on union officials to respect our rights and not attempt to fight this vote,” stated Caesar.

Under federal law, workers can trigger an NLRB-supervised decertification election with the signatures of 30% or more of the employees in a workplace. Caesar and his Roastery co-workers’ petition meets the criteria.

However, on May 18, 2023, NLRB Region 2 officials ordered each party to file briefs to determine whether or not to process the decertification petition by the Starbucks Roastery employees. The order suggests that unfair labor practice charge allegations filed by Workers United, an affiliate of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), could stop the petition from being processed. Such claims are often filed with the purpose of completely derailing employee decertification efforts, like the one taking place at the Starbucks Roastery.

In response to this order, Caesar’s Foundation staff attorneys filed a brief, emphasizing the wishes of the employees to continue with the decertification process and the importance of not trapping workers under monopoly union representation that lacks the support of a majority of the workers. This is a fundamental principle of the National Labor Relations Act that the NLRB is charged with enforcing.

“The policy of the Act is not to promote unionism per se; rather, it is to protect employees in their choice of representative,” the brief states. “Dismissing the decertification petition would disregard Petitioner’s and his colleagues protected statutory right to not associate with a union and benefit the Union at the expense of employee rights. Petitioner’s efforts to collect signatures and secure the backing of a majority of his colleagues on his showing of interest should not be so easily disregarded.”

The filing also describes the workers’ reasoning for wanting to exercise their right to remove the union: “Caesar filed a petition to decertify the Union. His petition was supported by a showing of interest indicating a majority of employees no longer want Union representation. Caesar does want to be represented by the Union because, in his opinion, the Union is self-interested, divisive, and unfocused on New York Roastery employees. He does not want to be forced to pay dues and prefers to advocate for himself, rather than have a third party do so.”

The decertification petition at Starbucks Roastery is just the latest employee decertification effort at Starbucks. In just two weeks, three different Starbucks locations in New York filed decertification petitions. Foundation staff attorneys also represent the petitioner in the Buffalo case.

The Foundation has also issued a legal notice to all Starbucks employees, offering free legal aid to any worker who may be interested in decertifying SBWU at their workplace and informs them of their rights in the workplace.

“If union officials cared about the actual wishes of rank-and-file Starbucks Roastery team members they would not be seeking to disenfranchise them by stopping a vote from taking place,” commented National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix. “The workers who oppose the union did nothing wrong, and the NLRB should reject attempts to strip them of their right to vote the union out.”

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