Judge orders reinstatement of seven fired Starbucks baristas



A federal judge on Thursday ordered the immediate reinstatement of seven Starbucks baristas in Memphis, who were fired earlier this year after speaking to a local television station about their union campaign, the National Labor Relations Board has confirmed.

The National Labor Relations Board had filed a lawsuit challenging the dismissal, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, and Judge Sheryl H. Lipman agreed that the workers should return to their jobs.

“I’m so happy with this result,” said Florentino Escobar, one of Starbucks’ licensed baristas. “It’s one more step to make Starbucks a better place.”

In the face of a fierce anti-union campaign led by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, the ruling marks a crucial victory for Starbucks’ organizing campaign, one of the most promising movements workers have seen in a generation.

Organizing efforts at Starbucks have contributed to a significant increase in union election filings this year, including first-time union victories at Amazon, Trader Joe’s and Apple retail stores.

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Reggie Borges, a spokesperson for Starbucks, said the company respects union process and will “negotiate in good faith” but will also appeal the decision and seek a stay of the order, which could result in a pause. of reinstatement until the review is completed. completed.

“We strongly disagree with the judge’s decision in this case,” Borges said. “These individuals violated numerous policies and failed to maintain a safe 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.

Last week, Starbucks asked the NLRB to “immediately suspend all Starbucks mail-in elections nationwide” following a whistleblower report that NLRB staff in Kansas interfered with the conduct of elections. elections.

“Howard Schultz thought he could terrify a whole nation of baristas by firing the Memphis organizing committee,” said Richard Bensinger, a top campaign organizer for Starbucks Workers United. “Fortunately, a federal judge found that Schultz was not above the law.”

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The seven licensed baristas in Memphis were in favor of joining Starbucks Workers United, which is part of Workers United. Five of them were part of the organizing committee. The NLRB announced in June that workers at the Memphis store had voted 11 to 3 to unionize.

More than 220 Starbucks stores have voted to unionize since last December. Forty-seven stores voted against unionization, according to the NLRB.

Meanwhile, Starbucks has laid off at least 75 union leaders and baristas, according to Starbucks Workers United, creating a chilling effect for new union election filings, the union said.

The NLRB has filed more than 19 complaints against Starbucks for violating workers’ union rights, according to the agency. The agency is also investigating more than 286 unfair labor practice charges, most of which are against Starbucks. Many involve allegations that Starbucks unlawfully fired union organizers.

“Today’s federal court decision ordering Starbucks to reinstate the seven illegally terminated Starbucks workers in Memphis is a critical step in ensuring that these workers, and all Starbucks workers, can freely exercise their right to organize. to improve their working conditions and form a union,” Jennifer Abruzzo, general counsel for the NLRB, said in a statement.

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