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Starbucks must rehire employees fired over unionizing attempt, judge rules

A Starbucks in Memphis, Tennessee, must reinstate seven workers who were fired earlier this year for attempting to unionize the store, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

The corporation must offer to hire the employees back within five days and post the court order in the store, Judge Sheryl Lipman with the the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee said. The National Labor Relations Board had challenged the firing, arguing that Starbucks had violated the employees’ right to unionize in February. All seven employees were advocating for a union with Starbucks Workers United at the time of the firing, according to the Washington Post.


“Today’s federal court decision ordering Starbucks to reinstate the seven unlawfully fired Starbucks workers in Memphis is 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,” the labor board’s general counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo, said in a statement. “Starbucks, and other employers, should take note that the NLRB will continue to vigorously protect workers’ right to organize without interference from their employer.”

Starbucks, which opposes the unionization efforts sweeping franchise locations across the United States, denied the infringement allegation and said the employees had been fired for violating corporation policies, including keeping the store open after hours so the workers could gather. They also allowed nonemployees, including a television crew, to go inside after hours, the corporation stated.

“We strongly disagree with the judge’s ruling in this case,” a Starbucks spokesman, Reggie Borges told the Washington Post. “These individuals violated numerous policies and failed to maintain a secure work environment and safety standards. Interest in a union does not exempt partners from following policies that are in place to protect partners, our customers and the communities we serve.”


Starbucks will appeal the ruling and request a stay of the reinstatement order until a review of the ruling is completed, Borges said.

Thursday’s ruling was the latest in a string of complaints against the corporation. Over 200 stores have voted to unionize since December, with 47 voting against. Starbucks has fired at least 75 union leaders and baristas as a result, the board said. The Memphis store voted to unionize in June.

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