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Starbucks faces another NLRB complaint [AP]

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By LAUREN SHEPHERD - NEW YORK (AP) - Starbucks Corp. is facing another complaint from the National Labor Relations Board alleging that the gourmet coffee chain engaged in unfair labor practices by firing a barista in Michigan.
The complaint, filed last month by the Detroit office of the NLRB, stems from an investigation into a charge made by employee Cole Dorsey earlier this year.

According to the NLRB complaint, Dorsey--a member of the Industrial Workers of the World union at Starbucks--was fired June 6 from his job at a store in Grand Rapids, Mich. Before being fired, Dorsey had been given two prior disciplinary warnings by his store manager.

The complaint alleges that Dorsey received the warnings and was fired because of his "sympathies for and activities on behalf of" the IWW Starbucks Workers Union. The union has been attempting to organize workers at the chain.

"We have reasonable cause to believe there may be a violation here when Starbucks terminated" Dorsey, said Stephen Glasser, regional director at the Detroit NLRB office.

The NLRB is requesting Starbucks re-hire Dorsey, compensate him for loss of wages, rescind the disciplinary warnings and post notices in the store saying workers have the right to unionize.

Starbucks has until Oct. 14 to formally respond to the complaint. If the company does not settle the case, it will go to trial in front of an administrative law judge on Nov. 20.

In a statement, Starbucks said Dorsey was fired after he was more than 30 minutes late to work. The disciplinary notices, the company said, were also related to tardiness.

The company said the charge that his firing was due to union activity is "without merit."

Starbucks also noted that the NLRB dismissed several charges made in Dorsey's case, including that the company encouraged co-workers to investigate Dorsey and did not allow employees to post union-related notices on the company bulletin board.

The latest dustup with the NLRB follows the settlement of a case last week. In that case, the NLRB filed a complaint after a Starbucks employee in Minnesota, Erik Forman, said he was fired for promoting union activity.

Starbucks, which fired Forman after he was 30 minutes late to work, later reversed its decision and re-hired him, saying his firing was "ill-considered." As part of the settlement, it also paid him for lost wages and posted a notice on his store's bulletin board affirming the rights of workers.

That was the chain's third settlement of an NLRB complaint alleging that it was attempting to dissuade employees from joining a union.

Starbucks has had a somewhat contentious relationship with the union, which says it represents about 200 current and former Starbucks workers. The union is now "vowing action" against the chain for a new scheduling system in which fewer employees will work more hours.

The system is meant to foster an environment where baristas know their customers better in a bid to boost sales. The program is also meant to allow baristas to secure more hours each week.

Starbucks does not guarantee full-time work hours, so employees have consistently complained that they have not been able to work as much as they would like. Under the new system, baristas can get "full-time" status if they work at least 32 hours a week.

The union, however, says the new system still does not offer a guarantee that employees will get the 32 hours they need and it requires full-time baristas to be available to work 70 percent of the hours that stores are open.

Starbucks shares fell 50 cents, or 3.7 percent, to $13.16 in afternoon trading.