Thursday, October 13, 2022

Ex-Starbucks manager throws employer under the bus for its alleged anti-union retaliation

"I didn't want to do illegal stuff. I've worked my entire life to build up a career of integrity, and I was not going to allow Starbucks to take that from me."

That's what David Almond, the former manager of several of Buffalo-area Starbucks told an NLRB administrative law judge earlier year, according to information received by Bloomberg pursuant to its Freedom of Information Act request.

What "illegal stuff?" 

Almond testified that his bosses at Starbucks provided him a list of pro-union employees and then instructed him to punish them for pretextual reasons such as wearing purple pants. 

Almond testified that in one instance management told him to "come up with something" on an otherwise quality employee. "Go through her files. She's a long-term partner. I'm sure there's something in there we can use against her."

In other instances, Almond claimed that someone from Starbucks' corporate told him to follow an employee who appeared to be holding a union poster, and that a district manager told him to discourage union chatter by having a constant management presence in the store.

In an email statement to Bloomberg, Starbucks denied any wrongdoing or that anyone to its knowledge directed Almond or anyone else to target or surveil union supporters. At the hearing, Starbucks' told the ALJ that any disciplinary actions resulted from admitted policy violations and were "taken very carefully." Meanwhile, NLRB general counsel Jennifer Abruzzo has issued dozens of complaints against Starbucks around the country, including one involving hundreds of allegations of anti-union conduct in the very region where Almond worked.

Almond's allegations, if true, are appalling. We can have a meaningful debate over whether a labor union is the correct solution for Starbucks' employees or any entity's employees. (I'm very much on the record that labor union are not the solution.) What should never be in debate, however, is whether an employer should retaliate against pro-union employees. It's illegal. Period. It should never happen, no matter how you feel about labor unions and union organizing, generally or at your specific workplace.