News & Commentary

November 17, 2023

Julio Colby

Julio Colby is a student at Harvard Law School.

In Today’s News & Commentary: REI hit with unfair labor practice charges and Starbucks faced with country-wide strikes for failing to bargain in good faith.

On Tuesday, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and United Food and Commercial Workers filed unfair labor practice charges against REI for refusing to bargain in good faith at eight stores across the country. According to the charges, REI wouldn’t meet with the union at a reasonable frequency and “stalled negotiations to avoid reaching an agreement on working conditions with the union.” The charges also include claims that REI unilaterally changed working conditions, including switching to a new scheduling system, updating attendance and dress code policies, disciplining workers who for unscheduled breaks, and banning workers from discussing nonwork matters on Microsoft Teams, all without contacting the union. The company also fired workers without giving the unions a chance to bargain over their terminations. 80 ULPs have now been filed against REI since union organizing campaigns first started at the outdoor goods company’s stores last spring.

On Thursday, thousands of Starbucks baristas across the country went on strike to oppose the company’s refusal to bargain in good faith with the Starbucks Workers United union. The strike was timed to align with the company’s “Red Cup Day,” on which customers who place a drink order at a participating store receive it in a free holiday-themed reusable cup. Workers are also calling for Starbucks to turn off mobile orders on promotion days because they add chaos to an already overburdened workload. On Red Cup Day last year, workers at 113 cafes went on strike protesting the company’s refusal to negotiate a contract with the union. One year later, workers at hundreds of stores are once again striking about the company’s ongoing failure to bargain, in what the union claims is its largest strike to date. Starbucks Workers United won its first union victory at a Starbucks café in Buffalo, New York, in January 2022. Nearly two years and 350 union victories later, not a single store has come close to securing a contract, and the union’s growth has slowed. Meanwhile, the NLRB has lodged over 100 complaints against the company for closing stores, firing pro-union workers, and failing to negotiate in good faith with the union.

Enjoy OnLabor’s fresh takes on the day’s labor news, right in your inbox.