Starbucks Corporation, (2023)

Date27 October 2023
Mill Valley & West Roseville, CA
and Cases 20–CA298631
Matthew Peterson, Esq.,
for the General Counsel.
Michael Pedhirney, Esq.,
Matthew D. Lerner, Esq.,
Shelia Hanley, Esq.,
Littler Mendelson P.C.,
for the Respondent.
Marina Multhap, Esq.,
for the Charging Party.
ELEANOR LAWS, Administrative Law Judge. This case was tried in San Francisco,
California, and Sacramento, California, on June 27-28, July 10,and July 25, 2023.1Workers
United (the Charging Party or Union) filed various chargesbetween June 30, 2022, and
December 21, 2022.2After issuing individual complaints in each of the above case numbers, the
General Counsel issued an order consolidating the complaints on May 12, 2023.Starbucks
1Testimony was completed on July 10. The record remained open because of some problems related
to the production of electronically stored information (ESI), which are detailed on the record. I heard
argument about the ESI matter, admitted exhibits, and closed the record via Zoom on July 25. No witness
testimony occurred via video, and therefore the requirements of Rule 102.35(c) were not implicated.
2All dates are in 2022 unless otherwise indicated.
Corporation (the Respondent or Starbucks) timely answered each complaint, denying all material
allegations and setting forth its defenses.
The complaints involve two Starbucks stores, one in Mill Valley, California, and another
in West Roseville, California. The first Mill Valley complaint (Mill Valley 1, 20-CA-298634), 5
issued on October 14, 2022, alleges the Respondent violated Section 8(a)(1) of the National
Labor Relations Act (the Act), by creating the impression it was surveilling its employees during
a union organizing campaign, instructing an employee to come to the store manager directly with
any issues about materials the Respondent posted at the store or enforcement of its policies about
such postings, requiring the employees to attend captive-audience meetings where the store 10
manager interrogated employees about their union support,3telling employees that the
Respondent had begun to enforce a policyregarding postings and that the Respondent would
start to enforce another policy, removing pro-union materials from the store’s community board,
instructing an employee that she expected not to hear reports that she had been discussing the
Union, and disparately applying its rule regarding solicitation and distribution of materials. The 15
Mill Valley 1 complaint further alleges that the Respondent violated Section 8(a)(3) and (1) of
the Act by failing and refusing to offer employee Ella Clark a position as a barista trainer.
The second Mill Valley Complaint (Mill Valley 2, 20-CA-309341), issued on March 2,
2023, alleges that the Respondent violated Section 8(a)(3), (4) and (1) of the Act by issuing a 20
corrective action to Clark.
The West Roseville complaint (20-CA-298631), issued on October 7, 2022, alleges the
Respondent violated Section 8(a)(1) of the Act by soliciting employee grievances and impliedly
promising to remedy them and creating an impression that their union activities were under 25
surveillance. Alternatively, the complaint alleges the Respondent violated Section 8(a)(3) and (1)
by increasing its supervision of employees.
On the entire record, including my observation of the demeanor of the witnesses, and
after considering the briefs filed by the General Counsel, the Respondent, and the Charging 30
Party, I make the following
The Respondent is a Washington State corporation with facilities located in Mill Valley,
California, and Roseville, California. At all relevant times, the Respondent annually derived
3The alleged interrogation was added to the complaint pursuant to an amendment. (GC Exh. 2; Tr. 9–
16.) The amendment also changed paragraph 10 to cure the original complaints failure to allege all of the
allegations in paragraph 7 violated Section 8(a)(1).
Abbreviations used in this decision are as follows: “Tr.” for transcript; “R Exh.” for Respondent’s
exhibit; “GC Exh.” for General Counsel’s exhibit; “U Exh.” for Union exhibit; “GC Br.” for General
Counsel’s brief; and “R Br.” for the Respondent’s brief, and “U Br.” for the Union’s brief. Although I
have included several citations to the record to highlight particular testimony or exhibits, I emphasize that
my findings and conclusions are based not solely on the evidence specifically cited but rather are based
my review and consideration of the entire record.
gross revenues in excess of $500,000 and purchased and received goods valued at more than
$5,000 from points outside the State of California. The Respondent admits, and I find, that it is
an employer engaged in commerce within the meaning of Section 2(2), (6), and (7) of the Act
and that the Union is a labor organization within the meaning of Section 2(5) of the Act.
A. Background
Starbucks is a household name at this point, operating over 9,000 retail stores selling 10
beverages and food. Organizationally, each Starbucks store is part of a district, which in turn is
part of a larger area. Relevant here, Starbucks’ organizational hierarchy includes area directors,
district managers, store managers, assistant store managers, shift supervisors, and baristas, some
of whom serve as barista trainers.
Starbuck’s mission is to “inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup, and
one neighborhood at a time.” (GC Exh. 12 p. 3; Tr. 375.) Its values include:
Creating a culture of warmth and belonging where everyone is welcome.
Acting with courage challenging the status quo and finding new ways to grow our 20
company and each other.
Being present, connecting with transparency, dignity and respect.
Delivering our best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results.
1. Discipline
When Starbucks employees, referred to as “partners,” commit infractions, they are
subject to varying degrees of discipline depending on the nature and frequency of the behavior at 30
issue. Generally, before any written discipline issues,for non-egregious breaches of procedure or
actions inconsistent with a partner’s job responsibilities, the store manager has coaching
conversations with the partner. In these conversations, the manager pullsthe partner aside and
coaches them about how their actions are not in line with Starbucks’ expectations. (Tr. 441.)
For written discipline, Starbucks uses a document called a “Corrective Action Form”
which has boxes to check for the level of discipline being issued. The first is a “Documented
Coaching,” the second is a “Written Warning,” and the third and final box is a “Final Written
Warning.” (GC Exh. 12.) If corrective actions do not correct the behavior, or if an employee
commits an infraction warranting termination, they may be separated with a “Separation Form.40
(Tr. 475.) A documented coaching is issued after a pattern of behavior continues despiteprevious
coaching conversations with the partner. It is an escalation of accountability that occurs when the
behavior has not been corrected or when the employee commits a more serious offense. The next
level of discipline is a written warning, then a final written warning. The severity of the behavior
and whether a pattern persists are both considered when escalating the level of discipline.45
Managers use a tool called virtual coachto determine the level of discipline,and also seek

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