A federal court has enforced a subpoena by the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) against Starbucks as it seeks to investigate the company’s efforts to interfere with labor organizing among its workers. More specifically, it is seeking documents related to spending the company may have done to interfere with an organizing campaign, which may indicate the company engaged in unfair labor practices. This is in spite of efforts by Starbucks to stymie the investigation, claiming that the USDOL was overstepping its authority.
What is Starbucks?
Starbucks is an international chain of coffee shops headquartered in Seattle, Washington. The company has more than 35,000 locations around the world, of which around 15,000 are located in the United States alone. The company is estimated to employ more than 400,000 employees and had an annual revenue of $32.25 billion as of 2022.
Why Are They Being Investigated?
The United States Department of Labor is investigating Starbucks as a result of alleged unfair labor practices undertaken by the company during an effort by its employees to organize a labor union. As part of that investigation, the USDOL issued a subpoena against Starbucks requesting financial documents relating to spending during that organizing campaign. Starbucks contested the subpoena, claiming the USDOL had overstepped its authority and that the subpoena could not be legally enforced.
What Did The Court Decide?
According to a decision by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, Starbucks must provide the requested documents within 14 days of the decision. The court soundly rejected the company’s defenses, and issued a ruling to enforce the subpoena. “We will not sit idly by when any company, including Starbucks Corp., defies our request to provide documents to make certain they are complying with the law,” said Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda in a statement.
Why is This Important?
This suit is important because it shows how the Department of Labor is working to protect the rights of average workers as they seek better working conditions and pay. Companies like Starbucks work hard to keep wages low, and to fight against efforts that might improve working conditions for their employees. By interfering with this labor organizing campaign, however, Starbucks may have gone a step too far, and may face legal penalties as a result, depending on what the evidence shows.
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