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Starbucks workers petition NLRB over corporate interference in union votes

Labor reporter Dani Romero examines the wave of Starbucks employees petitioning the National Labor Review Board over claims of corporate interference in mail-in ballots and temporary stops to union votes.

Video transcript

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DAVE BRIGGS: More than 200 Starbucks stores have unionized since workers in Buffalo first voted to do so late last year. Now the coffee chain is petitioning the National Labor Relations Board to suspend all mail-in ballot votes across the country. Yahoo Finance reporter Dani Romero joins us with more on this story. Dani, why?

DANI ROMERO: Yeah, well, this is just the latest battle between Starbucks and labor organizers. Starbucks is allegedly accusing the National Labor Relations Board of unfairly rigging the union elections in favor of the union. In a letter, Starbucks is allegedly accusing Labor Board officials of acting inappropriately, engaging in highly improper systematic misconduct that included a secret coordination of in-person voting at the NLRB offices, when it was intended to be just a mail-in ballot elections.

The coffee giant said that this happened during the union election in Kansas City, which resulted in a 6-to-1 vote. And not only that, but Starbucks challenged seven of those votes as well-- seven other votes, excuse me. But again, Starbucks is citing that someone from the NLRB office came forward as the whistleblower.

So we reached out to the NLRB in response to this, and they sent us this statement that reads, in part, the NLRB does not comment on open cases. The agency has well established processes to raise challenges regarding the handling of both election matters and unfair labor practices.

But again, Dave, this hasn't really stopped any of the union elections. There was one today in New York, even though Starbucks is asking that all mail-in ballots elections be suspended nationwide, also any upcoming union hearings as well. But those elections are still moving forward. And like you said, so far, more than 220 stores have voted in favor of unionization, according to the NLRB. And 34 elections are slated to vote in upcoming elections.

But labor organizers are really calling the Starbucks move the latest attempt to further distract and undermine the union's success. They sent us this statement from Workers United. Starbucks is simultaneously claiming to stand for voter protections and then asking elections be suspended nationwide. This is hypocrisy at its finest.

SEANA SMITH: And Dani, what's been the response from Starbucks employees? I would think very many-- many of them are extremely upset here with Starbucks's stance.

DANI ROMERO: Yeah, and like I said, I just read that quote in regards to that that these Starbucks baristas are really claiming that, like I said, this is the latest attempt to really undermine their success. More than 200 stores have voted in favor to unionize. But I think there's also another question here in regards to, is this something in regard to Starbucks is questioning the integrity of the board here? And could this be the latest move in regards to the Biden administration's appointed board?

And so that's something that I've been talking with experts, labor experts, in regards to this filing. And the really-- what I've heard is that the Starbucks angle here is really to get some of these Republican lawmakers on board to question the integrity of the board here and hopefully make some changes when it comes to mail-in ballots for these union elections.

SEANA SMITH: All right, Dani Romero, thank you.