An administrative trial that was scheduled for today has been canceled, and the agreement is expected to be signed this week, said Chet Byerly, resident officer for the NLRB in Grand Rapids. He would not disclose details of the proposed agreement.
A Starbucks spokeswoman confirmed that it is working on a settlement.
It is the third time in a month that Starbucks has faced action from the NLRB regarding the Industrial Workers of the World union.
Last month, an NLRB administrative law judge found that Starbucks took part in unfair labor practices at several of its New York cafes.
Last week, the Seattle chain settled a separate NLRB dispute in Michigan.
All three cases were initiated by baristas affiliated with the IWW, a century-old union that has worked for several years to improve conditions for Starbucks workers.
In New York last month, an NLRB judge ordered Starbucks to give back jobs to three former workers and compensate them for lost earnings. The company also must post notices informing employees of their labor-organizing rights.
Starbucks plans to appeal the ruling, according to spokeswoman Tara Darrow.
Such appeals often take a year and might last longer now that the NLRB's board has lost three of its five members, said University of Tennessee law professor Jeff Hirsch, a former attorney at the NLRB.
Last week's settlement stemmed from a complaint that barista and IWW member Cole Dorsey made to the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration about a leaky air conditioner.
In interviewing at least one Starbucks worker about the matter, attorneys at a local law firm representing Starbucks neglected to issue legally required warnings that help prevent coercive questioning.
"We contend that these warnings are not necessary when dealing with an occupational safety charge. The NLRB disagreed," Darrow said in an e-mail. "We elected to settle the matter to avoid litigation."
Starbucks did not admit wrongdoing but must post a notice in the affected store in Grand Rapids "saying they won't do it again," said NLRB Regional Director Stephen Glasser.
Dorsey, the barista who complained about the air conditioner, was fired in June after working for Starbucks almost two years. The NLRB charges that he was dismissed because of his union activities.
He was fired eight months after Starbucks and the IWW settled an agreement over unionizing efforts by employees at his Grand Rapids store. At that time, Starbucks agreed to post notices in that store advising employees of their unionizing rights.
Such settlements never come with fines and rarely with admissions of wrongdoing. The Employee Free Choice Act, which stalled in the last session of Congress, would allow the NLRB to order fines in some situations, according to former NLRB attorney Hirsch. The bill faces strong opposition from the business community.
In October, Starbucks settled a similar complaint in Minneapolis regarding another employee who claimed he was fired for encouraging co-workers to join the IWW.
By Poster: This is one more reason why we need the Employee Free Choice Act Now!
www.employeefreechoiceactnow.org/ http://www.aflcio.org/joinaunion/voiceatwork/efca/upload/Employee_Free_Choice_Act_Summary.pdf http://www.freechoiceact.org/petition/