Starbucks argues it's protecting its employees and customers; the union says the move is more attempted union-busting from the coffee giant.
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Starbucks has made their stance on unions very clear. Since the return of former CEO Howard Schultz this month, encouraging employees not to unionize has been his primary talking point. Admittedly, that's the company's prerogative: As Schultz wrote last week, "The law gives our partners a right to organize, and it also protects the right to work without having a union." But just how far will Starbucks go to ensure to push for the latter?

This week has seen another escalation in Starbucks' union-dissuading actions: On Wednesday, the chain filed two complaints with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that Starbucks Workers Union organizers in Denver and Phoenix had used unfair labor practices in violation of federal law, reportedly the company's first time taking this action.

According to the filings, Starbucks claims that organizers were exhibiting behavior that "was reasonably expected to physically intimidate and bully partners and customers in retaliation for their withholding support of Workers United."

A barista pours steamed milk into acup marked 'Steven' at Starbucks
Credit: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images

In a statement from Starbucks spokesperson, the company told us, "The Unfair Labor Practice charge was filed to protect the physical safety and emotional wellbeing of our partners and customers and to make it clear that the intimidation, bullying and harassment we're seeing from some union organizers is not acceptable."

In an  interview with Yahoo Finance, Starbucks Senior Vice President of Global Communications and Public Affairs, AJ Jones, went so far as to say that some partners had asked the company to intervene.

However, the Starbucks Workers Union, of course, had a different take. "These charges are a continuation of Starbucks' war against its own partners. It takes a lot of gall for a company that's launched one of the most aggressive and intense anti-union campaigns in modern history to file these charges," the group said in a statement provided to Yahoo. "Starbucks is getting desperate as it loses this war in battle after battle, because we — the Starbucks partners — continue to organize and fight for a real voice within the company. These charges are just the latest example of that desperation."

At this point, over 200 Starbucks locations have filed paperwork to hold union votes, according to CNBC, and of the 26 votes that have taken place to date, 24 stores have voted in favor of unionization while only two have voted against it.