Workers Sue Starbucks After Company Accused Them of Kidnapping Their Manager

Starbucks employees filed a lawsuit against Starbucks accusing them of defamation. Filing kidnapping or assault charges against workers earlier this year after they waged a labor protest — charges that the union said were totally false and were later dismissed by the police.

Workers at a South Carolina unionized store confronted their manager with a written demand. The letter included demands for repairs to the store equipment and wage hikes. After calling corporate about the incident and getting explicit permission from workers to leave, an audio recording revealed that the manager left the store and filed charges with the police. The union also stated that the company had released a statement and suspended the workers.

A TikTok posted by Starbucks Workers United shows the manager leaving the store freely, and police later determined that “none of the allegations” were true, the local police department said. Starbucks Workers United claims that the company and their manager never retract their allegations.

Workers seek a defamation judgement against the company, with punitive and compensatory damages, as well an injunction to prevent false accusations. They say that the company has caused them damage in “falsely stating or insinuating that they had engaged in criminal assault and kidnapping.”

“It’s more apparent now than ever that Starbucks will go to any length to smear workers, even going as far as lying to the police and accusing us of crimes we did not commit,” Anderson worker Aneil Tripathi said in a statement. “They abused the law enforcement process to intimidate us and keep us terrified that a knock on the door would be the Anderson police coming to take us away.”

“This case is about more than defamation; it’s about highlighting the disgusting, outright abuse Starbucks will level at their own workers,” Tripathi concluded. Tripathi was among six Anderson workers fired in September following another labor protest.

Workers also say that the company’s accusations caused them emotional distress.

“This looming threat over our heads personally caused me so much anguish that I received extensive therapy and dealt with numerous breakdowns, desperate to find a way out, desperate to find stability,” Anderson worker Natalie Mann said. “There are no words to describe what it feels like when a multibillion dollar company attempts to muzzle your voice and break your spirit.”

The company denies wrongdoing. “No Starbucks partner has been or will be disciplined for supporting or engaging in lawful union activity — but interest in a union does not exempt partners from following policies and procedures that apply to all partners,” the company saidIn a statement

This is the first lawsuit filed in Starbucks Workers United’s union campaign, which has seen astonishing success and been met with fierce opposition from the company. This is not the only legal complaint against the company. Labor officials have also found numerous accounts of illegal union busting.

The union has filed hundreds of unfair labor practice complaints over Starbucks’s anti-union tactics. These include moves such as Maintaining listsPro-union workers to discipline. firing dozensUnion organizers from across the country Denying workers new wage raises and benefits — all tactics that the union says are meant to stifle the union movement.