Starbucks will offer jobs to seven Memphis, Tennessee, employees it fired in February after a federal court lifted a stay on an injunction claiming the workers were terminated for union organizing, the company said in a statement on its website.
The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the National Labor Relations Board and Starbucks Workers United in an order filed Tuesday, court records show. The Court of Appeals denied a stay requested by the company, which sought to stop an injunction issued by a lower court.
That injunction required Starbucks to offer to rehire the seven terminated workers fired for what the NLRB and the union say was organizing activity, and what the company claims were breaches of policy. The 6th Circuit Court order says the court found the union’s version of the events to be reasonable, but did not offer a definitive interpretation of the firings.
“The court found reasonable cause that Starbucks retaliated against an employee after making public announcements, did not penalize other employees for similar infractions in the past, closed its lobby to interfere with planned union sit-ins, and removed union literature from the community bulletin board,” the court order states.
The circuit court’s ruling is the latest legal blow to Starbucks, which has faced a consistent stream of unfair labor practice charges, complaints and now injunctions since Starbucks Workers United won its first election last December.
Starbucks Workers United members celebrated the court’s decision, but said the company has fired close to 100 union supporters. Starbucks maintains it has not fired any workers in retaliation for organizing. A company spokesman told Restaurant Dive the company does not know how many workers who support the union or who work at unionized stores have been fired. Starbucks said it has only fired workers for breaching company policy.
“We hope the win helps provide the precedent for other cases like ours and helps show workers that we have the power to stand up for a better work life for ourselves and every other worker out there,” Kylie Throckmorton, one of the fired workers, said in a statement emailed to Restaurant Dive.
Starbucks Workers United told Restaurant Dive in an email exchange that all seven of the workers intended to return to their jobs, and that the company had to offer the workers their jobs back immediately following the court’s order.
The Section 10(j) injunctions are one of the only tools available to the NLRB and its regional offices for the rapid reinstatement of workers fired for organizing, labor law experts told Restaurant Dive in previous reporting. A circuit court backing the 10(j) injunction in the “Memphis 7” case could ameliorate the chilling effect such firings have on organizing. Starbucks Workers United said union members are hopeful workers fired in other cases will be reinstated by court order soon.