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Starbucks May Soon Face Legal Consequences for Union Busting

An injunction from the labor board seeks to reinstate workers that it finds were illegally fired for being pro-union.

A Starbucks worker wears a t-shirt and button promoting unionization, outside a Chicago location on April 7, 2022.

In a blow to Starbucks’s anti-union campaign, labor officials are seeking relief for fired pro-union Starbucks workers in Arizona, and filed an injunction on Friday to force the company to reinstate the fired workers.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has found that Starbucks illegally fired three workers, according to the filing prepared by NLRB regional director Cornele A. Overstreet. The three workers, Laila Dalton, Tyler Gillette and Alyssa Sanchez, composed nearly the entirety of the union’s organizing committee at their store in Phoenix, according to officials.

The injunction would force the company to immediately reinstate the workers and expunge any disciplinary actions against them that were taken in order to illegally union bust, according to the NLRB. The company will also have to post the court order against them within their stores and have a high-level executive read it aloud to employees in the presence of a board official.

If the injunction is successful, it will be a major blow to Starbucks’s anti-union campaign, which has led to the termination of at least 18 pro-union workers so far.

“Employees have the fundamental right to choose whether or not they want to be represented by the union without restraint or coercion by their employer,” Overstreet said in a statement. “The faith of Starbucks employees nationwide in workplace democracy will not be restored unless these employees are immediately reinstated under the protection of a federal court order.”

Overstreet is seeking the strongest relief available, an ability that is granted to the agency when labor officials find that the company has taken such extreme measures that the board would not be able to remedy the problems through normal actions.

“Immediate injunctive relief is necessary to ensure that the Employer does not profit nationwide from its illegal conduct, to protect the employees’ Section 7 rights, to preserve the Board’s remedial power, and to effectuate the will of Congress,” Overstreet continued.

The company denied the allegations, saying that workers were fired because they violated existing policies. However, pro-union workers have pointed out that the company often fires workers for offenses that wouldn’t normally be considered fireable or for policies that didn’t exist before.

The union celebrated the filing. “We’re glad to see concrete and swift action by Regional Director Overstreet, in response to Starbucks’ unprecedented and shocking union-busting campaign,” Starbucks Workers United wrote in a press release. “Starbucks’ treatment of our fellow partners in Arizona mirrors its treatment of union supporters at stores across the country. As a result, we fully expect that this is the first of many future petitions the NLRB will pursue against Starbucks, until the company is held accountable for its violations of our right to organize.”

In spite of Starbucks’s union-busting efforts, the union has been incredibly successful so far. On Monday, workers in Hopewell, New Jersey, voted unanimously to form a union at their store, marking the 30th unionized corporate-owned store in the campaign. As of the beginning of April, only eight stores had voted for the union so far, meaning that the union has nearly quadrupled the number of unionized stores this month alone.

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