By LAUREN SHEPHERD, Associated Press
NEW YORK -- The National Labor Relations Board said Wednesday it approved a settlement with Starbucks Corp. that explicitly states Minneapolis-area baristas can discuss union issues while on the job.
According to the settlement, Starbucks will post a notice in stores telling baristas the company will not remove union postings and will not prohibit union supporters from discussing the union while at work.
The settlement follows allegations that Starbucks' policy on posting materials and soliciting employees was being enforced differently in certain stores and by certain store managers.
The union, the Industrial Workers of the World, has been attempting to gain a foothold at the Seattle-based gourmet coffee retailer.
Starbucks did not admit any wrongdoing in the settlement, saying in a statement that it is the "latest in the IWW's 'kitchen sink' approach to criticizing all things Starbucks."
The company said it chose to settle to save the time and expense of going to trial.
Marlin Osthus, acting regional director at the NLRB office overseeing the Minneapolis area, said the union has 14 days to appeal the agency's approval of the settlement.
Osthus said Starbucks does not need to post the notice in stores until after the 14 day period has passed.
IWW members filed the initial NLRB complaint against Starbucks in January, saying the company did not allow employees to post union materials on bulletin boards and interfered with union supporters who were attempting to discuss work conditions and the union with coworkers.
The IWW Starbucks Workers Union estimates over 300 current and former employees are members nationwide. As of September 2007 the company had 172,000 employees worldwide, although since January 2008, the chain has announced more than 900 store closures and said it plans to cut as many as 6,700 jobs.