KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The National Labor Relations Board issued a sweeping complaint against Starbucks for what they are calling unfair labor practices in Knoxville.
The Starbucks on Merchant Drive voted to unionize in March. That union has since filed charges with the labor board, claiming that employees were threatened by their store manager and accused of being disloyal for participating in or supporting union activity.
There are also claims that Starbucks unfairly fired the Merchant Drive location’s union leader Elliott McGee, a 6-year employee of the chain. The complaint claims McGee was singled out after unionization and had specific disability-related medical accommodations stripped away before she was let go.
“This complaint speaks to the heart of the issues in our store that Starbucks has been putting us through for seeking union representation, and we can’t wait to have our partner Elliott back on our floor where she should’ve been this entire time,” said Maggie Carter, a barista at the Merchants Drive store.
After an investigation, the labor relations board announced it has found merit in those charges and will be pursuing civil prosecution of Starbucks for those violations. The board is seeking reinstatement of McGee with back pay.
Starbucks sent WATE the following response to the complaint.
“We disagree with the merits of the Complaint and maintain that actions taken at our Merchant Drive store were in full compliance with the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). We look forward to a full legal review of the matter as we work to engage meaningfully with the union to move the collective bargaining process forward.”
The hearing will take place at the John J. Duncan Federal Building in Knoxville on April 13, 2023.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated with additional information.