AUSTIN (KXAN) — The National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB, issued a complaint against Starbucks on March 7, claiming that the company violated workers’ rights and targeted Austin-area employees for organizing their workplaces.

The complaint arose after Workers United, an Service Employees International Union (SEIU) affiliate union, under which Starbucks workers are organizing, told the NLRB that organizers had been interrogated, surveilled and threatened by Starbucks managers.

NLRB complaints are not resolution; the matter will go before a NLRB administrative law judge for a ruling. Initially, this hearing was scheduled for July 31. However, a order to reschedule hearing has also been filed by the NLRB — this document was not readily available.

Read the full complaint below:

Starbucks filed a response to the complaint on March 21. KXAN is seeking a copy of that response, but has yet to hear back.

Jackie Kirkman, a former Starbucks employee, is named in the complaint as one of Starbucks’ targets. In the course of a month, a store manager allegedly issued three disciplinary warnings before ultimately firing Kirkman on May 6, 2022. During this time, Kirkman said she was engaged in collecting signature cards that would allow her fellow workers to vote on unionizing.

“All of those came within about a month and a half after the moment that my boss was made aware that I was attempting to unionize the store,” Kirkman said. “I had had a history of significant lateness, much more than what was actually documented in the times that I was fired for, over the year that I had been employed at that store. I didn’t receive documented coaching for it, nor was I anywhere near being forced out or in big trouble because of it, until that was something that she could use to go ahead and get me out of the store.”

The retaliation alleged by Kirkman is part of a larger anti-union effort by the company, she said. According to Kirkman, other workers were told that a union would add more bureaucracy and could lead to a loss of wages and benefits.

Federal law prohibits the following quoted here from the NLRB:

  • Threatening employees with loss of jobs or benefits if they join or vote for a union or engage in protected concerted activity.
  • Threatening to close the plant if employees select a union to represent them.
  • Questioning employees about their union sympathies or activities in circumstances that tend to interfere with, restrain or coerce employees in the exercise of their rights under the Act.
  • Promising benefits to employees to discourage their union support.
  • Transferring, laying off, terminating, assigning employees more difficult work tasks, or otherwise punishing employees because they engaged in union or protected concerted activity.
  • Transferring, laying off, terminating, assigning employees more difficult work tasks, or otherwise punishing employees because they filed unfair labor practice charges or participated in an investigation conducted by NLRB.

But, Kirkman said, this was rhetoric supplied by higher levels of Starbucks’ management.

“That’s the thing that hurts me and scares me about this. The whole infrastructure of this company… is literally using every single tier on its salaried pay list to break the law to keep this from happening,” Kirkman said. “That’s how blatantly they’re willing to just completely ignore rights and fight against them.”

For those interested in organizing their own workplaces, she recommends discretion during the early stages.

“Corporations are scared of this. Any and all profit-based models are scared of giving us our rights,: Kirkman said. “And so fighting for [rights] is something that you have to do with a really, really high level of delicacy.”