Starbucks illegally threatened to revoke abortion travel benefits for unionized workers, judge rules

Starbucks managers in Wisconsin illegally threatened to take away abortion travel benefits guaranteed to workers if they unionized, a judge ruled this week.

Charles Muhl, an administrative law judge, wrote that the Starbucks managers violated Section 8 of the National Labor Relations Act, which says companies cannot threaten or use coercive or aggressive language to dissuade employees from exercising their rights to vote to recognize a union.

According to the filing, in June 2022 a West Allis, Wisconsin, Starbucks shop voted to recognize a union. One employee then sent an email to the store manager and CEO Howard Schultz asking them to recognize the store’s union as their bargaining representative.

The store’s manager responded by confronting the employee about the email, saying the store didn’t need a union and would lead to consequences if a union was formed. According to the employee, management told the store’s workers that if they unionized they would lose benefits like a planned pay increase, the ability to work in other stores in the area and the loss of abortion travel compensation.

Starbucks has denied breaking any labor laws with its manager’s comments and actions, and while it may not want a union, it didn’t hinder worker rights.

The labor ruling comes after Starbucks promised to cover abortion travel costs for its employees after the Supreme Court overturned the national right to abortion in 2022.

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