Starbucks loses appeal over union election at Seattle store By Reuters

Starbucks loses appeal over union election at Seattle store By Reuters

By Daniel Wiessner

(Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday rejected Starbucks’ (NASDAQ:) claims that an election won by a union at the coffee company’s Seattle flagship store was invalid because it was held by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board that the company, which is facing a nationwide union organizing drive, must recognize and negotiate with the store’s union, which represents nearly 100 workers.

Starbucks claimed that a labor board official who ordered the mail-in election in March 2022 used faulty data to determine that an in-person election was unsafe because there was a rising trend of COVID cases in the Seattle area. Workers at the store voted 38-27 in favor of unionizing.

On Wednesday, the 9th Circuit disagreed, finding that the official properly applied a test the board adopted in 2020 to determine when an absentee ballot was appropriate due to the pandemic.

Starbucks and Workers United, the union that organizes the company’s stores, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

During the pandemic, most union elections have been conducted by mail, and the labor board still orders mail-in elections in some cases.

Business groups and Republican lawmakers have criticized the Labor Commission for continuing to avoid in-person elections even as the pandemic has eased. They say mail-in elections decrease voter turnout and undermine workers’ rights to choose whether or not to be represented by a union.

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In a 2020 decision involving hospital operator Aspirus, the labor board said that, among other factors, regional directors should review the 14-day trend in local COVID cases before deciding how to administer a union election .

In Wednesday’s case, Starbucks claimed that meant looking at the average rate of new cases each day over a 14-day period, not the number of cases reported 14 days apart as the regional manager had done.

But the 9th Circuit noted in its decision that the labor board failed to define what a 14-day trend was or present a specific method for calculating it.

“Even if we give credit to Starbucks’ approach…our standard of review does not permit us to move the NLRB’s choice between two quite conflicting views,” Circuit Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote in the name of the court.

Workers at more than 420 of Starbucks’ 9,000 stores in the United States have voted to unionize since 2021. The 9th Circuit case is one of several cases involving the unionization drive aimed at reaching job courts. federal appeal.

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