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Starbucks Hit With Claim Alleging Boycott List To Jewish Org.

By Beverly Banks · 2023-10-20 20:51:48 -0400 ·

Workers United accused Starbucks of giving an Orthodox Jewish organization a list of unionized stores to boycott after the union posted a now-deleted tweet saying "Solidarity with Palestine," claiming the coffee chain is "using the current global tragedy" to discourage union support.

Coffee chain logo

An NLRB charge says that Starbucks is trying to stir up "fear of workplace violence and retaliation against" workers and customers to dissuade backing for the union. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

In an unfair labor practice charge obtained by Law360 on Friday, Workers United claimed Starbucks shared a list of unionized stores and their addresses with the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce "for the purpose of initiating a boycott of unionized stores." A Starbucks spokesperson denied Friday that the company shared such a list.

Starbucks is trying to stir up "fear of workplace violence and retaliation against" workers and customers to dissuade backing for the union, according to the National Labor Relations Board charge dated Thursday.

"The employees' fears of workplace violence are not unfounded due to the current climate in the United States of heightened emotions around the conflict in the Middle East," Workers United said. "The employer is using the current global tragedy against its own employees to chill support for the union."

The union asked for an injunction under Section 10(j) of the National Labor Relations Act, which lets board prosecutors seek injunctive relief from a federal court as an administrative case proceeds.

According to Law360's Starbucks Unionization Tracker, employees at the coffee chain have made efforts to form a union at more than 500 locations across the country.

Workers United and Starbucks filed competing suits in federal court Wednesday related to the union's now-deleted tweet saying "Solidarity with Palestine." Starbucks alleged that the union's message was part of a retweet showing "a picture of the bulldozer tearing down a fence on the Gaza strip during the attack on Israel on Oct. 7." The company also mentioned pro-Palestinian posts that Iowa City Starbucks Workers United retweeted.

Starbucks accused the union of using the company's trademark in Workers United's logo without asking. The union alleged in its complaint that Starbucks defamed Workers United through false statements "indicating that Workers United supports terrorism and violence."

Within the charge to the NLRB, Workers United cited a link to a page on the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce's website about Starbucks and the list of unionized stores.

The OJC, which is a group of businesses in the Jewish community, said in a recent post on its website that Starbucks provided the organization with a list of "stores to avoid." The OJC linked to another website called Every Union Starbucks, which isn't affiliated with the company but lists stores where workers have organized with Workers United. The OJC claimed that former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz communicated with the OJC's CEO and founder Duvi Honig.

The organization shared a letter on its site from AJ Jones II, who is Starbucks' executive vice president and chief communications office for public affairs. According to the letter, Jones said the company was "deeply troubled" by Workers United's statements, and the union's comments don't reflect the company's views.

In a post on LinkedIn this past week, Honig said the organization was calling for a boycott of Starbucks, saying "drinking a cup of Starbucks is drinking a cup of Jewish blood."

On Friday, Honig posted again on LinkedIn, announcing an end to the boycott after Starbucks filed its trademark lawsuit. Honig said the OJC asked Schultz for a list of unionized stores "to ensure transparency and to help customers avoid being served their beverages from supporting Hamas sympathizers and their Starbucks locations."

Jones sent another letter to Honig on Friday that was shared with Law360. According to the letter, Jones asked the OJC to correct the organization's statements claiming the company gave it a list of stores. The company told the OJC in an email Wednesday that it wouldn't share a list of unionized stores, Jones said.

According to a copy of Starbucks' statement of position that was obtained by Law360 on Friday, the company urged the dismissal of the charge, saying the coffee chain didn't encourage a boycott. Starbucks said the OJC posted false statements about the sharing of the boycott list and having a united stance with the company against the unionized stores. 

In an email from the OJC to Law360 on Sunday, the organization said Starbucks didn't share a list of stores. The organization has updated its webpage about Starbucks since Friday, removing language that said the coffee chain shared a list of stores with the OJC. The OJC lists stores that it claims are union-affiliated and "urges all seeking a non hostile environment to avoid" those locations.

As of Monday, the webpage no longer says that the OJC and Starbucks were taking a united stance against unionized locations.

Starbucks Workers United declined to comment.

Workers United is represented by Betty Grdina and Daniel Rosenthal of James & Hoffman PC and in-house by Mary Joyce Carlson.

Starbucks is represented by Michael Moschel and Yijee Jeong of Littler Mendelson PC.

The case name and number were not immediately available.

--Editing by Nick Petruncio.

Update: This article has been updated with new details about the case, counsel information for Starbucks and a response from the OJC.

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