Jon Klinghoffer, an employer-side labor attorney and Principal in the firm’s Labor & Employment and Litigation Groups, is quoted in the article, "Starbucks Takes Center Stage in Washington As It Tests NLRB’s Reach," published in the March 29, 2023, edition of POLITICO Pro.
The article concerns Starbucks' former CEO Howard Schultz's March 29, 2023, testimony before the U.S. Senate HELP Committee regarding the company's push back against union organizing at its stores.
For more than one year, the National Labor Relations Board has tried to compel Starbucks to stop what the agency views as illegal union-busting. It states that the company's effort to stop unionization at its individual stores has been aggressive and, federal officials say, has often crossed the line. The NLRB has taken the company to federal court five times seeking injunctions, is prosecuting 83 complaints spanning 278 unfair labor practice charges, and is seeking the reinstatement of dozens of terminated employees.
Starbucks has vigorously defended its counter-union campaign and, in doing so, has tested the outer bounds of the NLRB’s power.
“Some employers play the long game here,” Jon Klinghoffer is quoted as saying in the article. "But Starbucks can't be enjoying all of this [negative] press. It's not helpful in trying to get your side of the story out.”
On Monday, March 27, 2023, the General Counsel's Office of the NLRB, led by Jennifer Abruzzo, determined that Starbucks illegally refused to bargain at dozens of stores that voted to unionize because some workers tried to participate through video calls. (The article describes Ms. Abruzzo as "a general counsel determined to expand workers’ labor rights and endorsed by a Democratic board majority amenable to [her] brawny view of the agency’s foundational statute.") Conversely, an NLRB regional director dismissed nearly 75 charges Starbucks filed against the union similarly alleging refusal to bargain.
After threatening a subpoena vote to compel Mr. Schultz's testimony, the Senate HELP Committee will now hear from Mr. Schultz on Wednesday, March 29, 2023. The article states that Mr. Schultz, who stepped down as interim CEO of Starbucks earlier this month, has said publicly that he believes a union’s entrance into the workplace is a repudiation of that company’s treatment of its employees. Starbucks has long fashioned itself as a model employer in an industry where low wages and high turnover are commonplace.
HELP Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is quoted in the article as saying: “I look forward to hearing from Mr. Schultz as to when he intends to end his illegal anti-union activities and begin signing fair first contracts with the unions.”
Starbucks has steadfastly denied using illegal tactics to stamp out the union campaign, during which 365 stores have held elections, with organizers winning at least 294 of them.