In a sign that federal labor officials are closely scrutinizing management behavior during union campaigns, the National Labor Relations Board said Friday that it had found merit in accusations that Amazon and Starbucks had violated labor law.
At Amazon, the labor board found merit to charge that the company had required workers to attend anti-union meetings at a huge Staten Island warehouse where the Amazon Labor Union won a stunning election victory last month. The decision was communicated to the union Friday by an attorney for the labor board’s regional office in Brooklyn, according to Seth Goldstein, a lawyer representing the union.
Such meetings, often known as “captive audience” meetings, are legal under the current Labor Board precedent. But last month, the board’s general counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo, issued a memo saying that the precedent was at odds with the underlying federal statute, and she indicated she would seek to challenge it.
In the same filing of charges, the Amazon Labor Union accused the company of threatening withholding benefits from employees if they voted to unionize, and inaccurately indicating to employees that they could be fired if the warehouse were unionized and they failed to pay union. dues. The labor board also found merit to accreditations, according to an email from the attorney at the regional office, Matt Jackson.
Mr. Jackson said the agency would soon issue a complaint reflecting those accusations unless Amazon settled the case. The complaint would have been litigated before an administrative law judge, whose decision could have appealed to the Labor Board in Washington.
Understand the Unionization Efforts at Amazon
Mr. Goldstein applauded Ms. Abruzzo and the regional office are taking “decisive steps to end captive audience meetings” and said the right to unionize “will be protected by ending Amazon’s inherently coercive work practices.”
Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokeswoman, said in a statement that “these allegations are false and we look forward to showing that through the process.”
At Starbucks, where the union has won initial votes at more than 50 stores since December, the Labor Board issued a complaint Friday over a series of charges filed by the union, most of them in February, accusing the company of illegal behavior. Those accusations include firing employees in retaliation for the union; threatening employees’ ability to receive new benefits if they choose to unionize; Requiring workers to be available for a minimum number of hours employed at a unionized store without bargaining over the change, as a way to force out at least one union supporter; and effectively promising benefits to workers if they decide not to unionize.
In addition to those allegations, the labor board found merit to accusations that the company shut down Buffalo-area stores and engaged in surveillance workers while they were on the job. All of those actions would be illegal.
In a statement, Starbucks Workers United, a branch of the union representing workers there, said that finding “confirms the extent and the degree of deprivation of Starbucks’s conduct in Western New York for the better part of a year.” It added: “Starbucks will be held accountable for the union-busting minefield.
Starbucks said in a statement that the complaint does not constitute a decision by the labor board, adding, “We believe the allegations contained in the complaint are false, and we look forward to presenting our evidence when the allegations are adjudicated.”