Starbucks Under Fire for Dealings with Buffalo Unions
Workspan Daily
March 03, 2023

As reported by CNN, Starbucks displayed “egregious and widespread misconduct” in its dealings with employees involved in efforts to unionize Buffalo, New York stores, a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) judge said in an order Wednesday.  

Michael Rosas, the NLRB judge ruling over the case, ordered Starbucks to reinstate and make whole a number of workers who were let go from locations in or around Buffalo, among other remedies.  

The case includes 32 unfair labor charges made by Workers United against the company for its actions between August 2021 and July 2022 at 21 stores in the Buffalo area, including the first Starbucks location to unionize. Judge Rosas also ruled that Starbucks must post a notice in its stores nationally that informs workers they have the right to join a union and lays out a lengthy list of what the company will refrain from doing, like surveilling workers or making other efforts to dissuade union activity.  

Rosas also said that interim CEO Howard Schultz and another company leader must read the notice to employees or be present at a meeting where the rights are read. 

Schultz, who will soon hand over the reins to incoming CEO Laxman Narasimhan, has been a vocal opponent of the union since he rejoined the company as interim CEO last year. 

“I don’t think a union has a place in Starbucks,” Schultz recently told CNN’s Poppy Harlow. If workers “file for a petition to be unionized, they have a right to do so. But we as a company have a right also to say, we have a different vision that is better,” he said. 

For union leaders, Wednesday’s order was a win. 

“This is truly a historic ruling,” Gary Bonadonna Jr., manager of the Rochester Regional Joint Board of Workers United, SEIU, said in a statement issued by Starbucks Workers United. “We will not rest until every Starbucks worker wins the right to organize.” 

Twitter Lays Off More Employees  

As reported by the New York Times, Twitter laid off at least 200 of its employees on Feb. 25, three people familiar with the matter said, or about 10% of the roughly 2,000 who were still working for the company.  

Elon Musk, who acquired the social media platform in October, has steadily pared back its work force from about 7,500 employees as he has sought to reduce costs. 

The layoffs came after a week when the company made it difficult for Twitter employees to communicate with each other. The company’s internal messaging service, Slack, was taken offline, preventing employees from chatting with each other or looking up company data, five current and former employees told the Times. On Saturday night, some employees discovered that they were logged out of their corporate email accounts and laptops, three of the people said — the first hint that layoffs had begun. 

The cuts included product managers, data scientists and engineers who worked on machine learning and site reliability, which helps keep Twitter’s various features online. The monetization infrastructure team, which maintains the services through which Twitter makes money, was reduced to fewer than eight people from 30, the Times reported.  

The reductions followed a mass layoff in early November, when Musk eliminated about half of Twitter’s work force a week into his ownership of the company. Smaller layoffs and resignations have since reduced Twitter’s staff to around 2,000 employees. 

Senate Votes to Overturn Biden Administration’s ESG Retirement Investment Rule  

The U.S. Senate passed a resolution on Wednesday to overturn a Biden administration retirement investment rule that allows managers of retirement funds to consider the impact of climate change and other environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors when picking investments, CNN reported.  

The rule, issued by the Department of Labor (DOL) in November, has received significant pushback at the state level from most Republican governors. Republicans argue the rule is an overreach by the Biden administration that could negatively affect millions of Americans’ retirement accounts, while Democrats tout the two-pronged benefits of environmentally conscious investing that could also support quality retirement efforts.   

The measure will go to President Joe Biden’s desk, as it was passed by the House on Tuesday. The administration, however, has issued a veto threat. As a result, passage of the resolution could pave the way for Biden to issue the first veto of his presidency 

Opponents of the rule could try to override a veto, but at this point it appears unlikely they could get the two-thirds majority needed in each chamber to do so, CNN reported.  

The resolution, authored by GOP Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana, only needed a simple majority to pass. It passed on a vote of 50 to 46 with Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana voting with Republicans. 

Republican lawmakers advanced it under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to roll back regulations from the executive branch without needing to clear the 60-vote threshold in the Senate that is necessary for most legislation. 

Opponents of the rule have argued that it politicizes retirement investments, and that the Biden administration is using it to push a liberal agenda on Americans. 

“The Biden Administration wants to let Wall Street use workers’ hard-earned savings to pursue left-wing political initiatives,” Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell said in remarks on the Senate floor on Tuesday morning. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Wednesday that Republicans are “using the same tired attacks we’ve heard for a while now that this is more wokeness. … But Republicans are missing or ignoring an important point: Nothing in the (Labor Department) rule imposes a mandate.” 

“This isn’t about ideological preference, it’s about looking at the biggest picture possible for investments to minimize risk and maximize returns,” he said, noting it’s a narrow rule that is “literally allowing the free market to do its work.” 

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