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Starbucks agrees to sixth labor settlement in three years

By Seattle Times

Starbucks signed a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board last week agreeing to let Minneapolis-area employees post union materials in their break areas and discuss union issues while on the job, as long as it doesn’t interfere with their performance.

The settlement does not include financial payment, and it will not be final until the NLRB decides whether to address objections to the settlement by union organizers at the Industrial Workers of the World, according to Marlin Osthus, acting director of the NLRB’s upper midwest region office.

The IWW initiated the complaints that led to the settlement and, according to a press release, considers it a victory at this point.

It’s Starbucks’ sixth labor settlement in three years and its second in Minneapolis. In December, the coffee chain also lost a battle in administrative-law court when a judge determined that Starbucks had unfairly imposed work rules on employees who supported the IWW.

The company is appealing the court’s decision and has not acknowledged wrongdoing in any of the settlements.

Starbucks said in a statement that since early January, 15 unfair labor practice charges filed by a “small group of individuals” have been dismissed by the NLRB or withdrawn.

“Starbucks chose to settle the one remaining charge,” the statement said. It called the settlement “the latest in the IWW’s ‘kitchen sink’ approach to criticizing all things Starbucks…. [W]e strongly believe we would have prevailed had the one remaining case gone to trial, but the time and expense required to do so was not justifiable.”

Starbucks’ labor record is the subject of a new online film by Brave New Films, which is known for viral video campaigns against John McCain, Wal-Mart and others.

So far the Starbucks video, which features tales told before by union activists (and which I covered here and here), has been viewed 60,599 times on YouTube. According to a site that supports the film, a form letter to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz decrying Starbucks’ union stance — including its recent decision to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act — has been sent by 14,845 people.