A U.S. district judge ruled on Thursday that Starbucks must reinstate seven union organizers that the company fired in Memphis, Tennessee, in February after the judge found “reasonable cause” in allegations from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that the company had engaged in unlawful union busting.
District Judge Sheryl Lipman ruledStarbucks had fired employees for pro-union activities that are covered by federal labor law. It also took actions to hinder the union campaign at its store. Lipman presented the company five daysThe company will appeal the ruling, but it will be reinstituting the workers.
Lipman also ordered that the company expunge any disciplinary action taken against one fired employee and post copies to the Memphis store for employees.
The ruling is a major win for Starbucks Workers United, which had rallied behind the “Memphis Seven” after their firing, calling it the company’s “most blatant act of union busting yet.” An injunction is one of the strictest forms of relief that the NLRB can seek against a union-busting company.
“I’m so happy with this outcome,” Florentino Escobar, one of the fired workers, told The Washington Post. “This is one more step to make Starbucks a better place.”
The workers were fired in February. Company citedThe workers were accused to have broken a number of store policies. The terminations generated outrage among the union and pro-union workers, who said that in most cases, the company cited policies that didn’t exist or that were never previously enforced.
The company claimed that by firing workers, they had made it clear that they would not tolerate the workers being fired. Nearly the entireThe store’s organizing committee was only responsible for enforcing its employee policies. The judge rejected this argument. The company also argued in a court filing that the injunction wasn’t needed because the terminations “emboldened union organizing activities in Memphis and throughout the nation.”
In a statement released after the ruling came down, the company said that it “strongly disagree[s]” with the decision.
NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo hailed the ruling, calling it a “a crucial step in ensuring that these workers, and all Starbucks workers, can freely exercise their right to join together to improve their working conditions and form a union.”
“Starbucks, and other employers, should take note that the NLRB will continue to vigorously protect workers’ right to organize without interference from their employer,” she went on.
Starbucks has fired a number of Memphis workers since firing them. Around 70 additional employeesIts fierce anti-union campaign. Workers Strikes have been waged against the company’s efforts to fire pro-union workers, close Unionized stores, and interfere with elections, but the company’s union-busting efforts show no sign of stopping.
Starbucks opened earlier this week. sent a letterTo the NLRB asking it temporarily to suspend all union election within the company. Labor experts claim that the move was made to delay union election to allow the company more time for workers to vote against unionizing, and potentially question the legitimacy the NLRB.
The NLRB is currently prosecuting Starbucks over the board’s findings that the company had broken the law over 200 times in its effort to halt the union effort in Buffalo, where the union movement began.