News Release

Federal court enforces US Department of Labor subpoena seeking documents to investigate Starbucks Corp.’s response to worker organizing campaigns

Ruling supports efforts to assess company’s compliance with federal law

SEATTLE A federal court in Seattle has ruled that Starbucks Corp. must comply with a U.S. Department of Labor administrative subpoena that seeks documents needed in an investigation by the department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards into money spent by the company related to worker organizing campaigns. The court has given the company 14 days to provide the documents.

On Oct. 4, 2023, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington directed the Seattle-based multinational operator of coffeehouses and roasteries to provide requested documents from fiscal years 2021 and 2022 to determine compliance with the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act. In its ruling, the court soundly rejected Starbucks’ attempts to challenge the department’s subpoena power and affirmed that the law justifies the department’s investigation. 

In granting the subpoena’s enforcement, the court noted that “the Acting Secretary has properly demonstrated that she has authority to investigate; that her delegates properly followed procedure in issuing the Subpoena; and that the information sought is relevant and material to the investigation.”

“Congress has given the U.S. Department of Labor the power to issue subpoenas to investigate compliance with federal law under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act,” explained Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda. “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.”

The court’s action follows the department’s May 2023 filing of its petition against Starbucks Corp. after the company refused to provide documents sought in the subpoena. The department had requested Starbucks provide documents related to an investigation by the department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards of expenditures by the company during a worker organizing campaign in Buffalo, New York. 

“The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act is an important tool that allows workers to understand ‘who is doing what’ to counter an organizing campaign,” said Office of Labor-Management Standards Director Jeff Freund. “By enforcing the department’s subpoena, the court will help us determine if Starbucks must file a report on its response to its workers’ efforts to organize.”

Read a related blog post by OLMS Director Jeff Freund.

Formed in 1985, the Starbucks Corp. is the world’s leading specialty coffee roaster, marketer and retailer with more than 36,000 stores operating in 83 global markets. In addition to its namesake brand, the company sells goods and services under the Teavana, Seattle’s Best Coffee, Ethos, Starbucks Reserve and Princi brands. 

Office of Labor-Management Standards
October 6, 2023
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Media Contact: Edwin Nieves
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