Edmonton Starbucks workers accuse company of union busting

This isn’t the first time the company has been accused of unionbusting. Several Lethbridge workers came forward in 2022 with similar charges.

Last week, the Alberta Labour Relations Board released their most recent New Applications Report. In the report is a new application alleging interference by Starbucks in the unionization drive at one of the chain’s Edmonton stores.

Last month, the United Steelworkers announced that they had successfully unionized the company’s store in the Edmonton neighbourhood of Terrace Heights.

A month later, Local 1-207 of the union, representing 7 Starbucks workers at the Terrace Plaza location, submitted an application to the ALRB saying that the company was interfering with the recent unionization effort by “decreasing the scheduled hours of [union] supporters . . . during the certification campaign and after the date of certification.”

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The 7 workers named in the application were Brandon Smith, Caylie Ganam, Emilie Verschure, Jeremy Dolinsky, Micah Carter, Moira Percival, and Symarah Travers.

USW alleges that this reduction in hours for these union supporters contravened several sections of the Labour Relations Code. For example, they believe it contravenes 148(1)(a)(ii), which states,

No employer or employers’ organization and no person acting on behalf of an employer or employers’ organization shall participate in or interfere with the representation of employees by a trade union.

They also claim that the company’s actions “violated the statutory freeze period by reducing the scheduled hours,” which they believe contravenes section 147(1):

If a trade union has applied for certification, no employer affected by the application shall, except in accordance with an established custom or practice of the employer or with the consent of the trade union or in accordance with a collective agreement in effect with respect to the employees in the unit affected by the application, alter the rates of pay, any term or condition of employment or any right or privilege of any of those employees during the time between the date of the application andthe date of its refusal, or 30 days after the date of certification.

Finally, they allege that by reducing hours, the company also violates section 149(1)(c):

No employer or employers’ organization and no person acting on behalf of an employer or employers’ organization shall seek by intimidation, dismissal, threat of dismissal or any other kind of threat, by the imposition of a pecuniary or other penalty or by any other means, to compel an employee to refrain from becoming or to cease to be a member, officer or representative of a trade union

The 7 workers have retained the Edmonton law firm Chivers Carpenter for representation in this case. The union-side firm specializes in labour, employment, and human rights law and has assigned Drew Blaikie, who also represented 12 Lethbridge workers accusing Starbucks of unionbusting, and Amelia Philpott to the case.

The ALRB has yet to set a hearing date for this matter.

Since the ALRB doesn’t archive their new application reports, here’s a copy of the most recent one.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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