After an extended blizzard of firing workers in obvious retaliation for their union activism, Starbucks has run up against a federal judge.
U.S. District Judge Sheryl Lipman ordered Starbucks to reinstate the workers known as the Memphis Seven, who were fired in February after doing a media interview in their store outside of business hours. The National Labor Relations Board filed charges over those firings—just some of the hundreds of labor law violations the NLRB alleges against Starbucks in dozens of unfair labor practice charges, with the NLRB continuing to find violations by Starbucks as recently as this week.
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“I was fired by Starbucks today for ‘policies’ that I’ve never heard of and that I’ve never been written-up about before,” said shift supervisor Nikki Taylor in a statement at the time. “This is a clear attempt by Starbucks to retaliate against those of us who are leading the union effort at our store and scare other partners. Starbucks will not get away with this—the entire country will be outraged.”
Following the judge’s order, Nabretta Hardin, one of the fired workers, said, “We’re beyond thankful the federal court ruled in our favor, and this just goes to show that Starbucks will do everything in their power to silence us.”
NLRB 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.”
While the judge ordered Starbucks to reinstate the workers, they won’t get anything that looks like justice from U.S. labor law, which barely penalizes companies for illegally firing employees for exercising their legal rights. Starbucks is using illegal retaliatory firing to try to quash union activism among its workers—and in some cases, maybe even directly tip the results of votes it expects to be close—because it knows it can get away with it, that even if it has to pay the maximum restitution for every pro-union worker it fires, that will amount to basically nothing. (Companies have to pay only back wages minus what the workers earn if they find another job while their cases are litigated.)
Here are some of the workers shortly before they were fired:
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