A judge ordered Starbucks to reinstate 7 workers in Tennessee who say they were fired over union activity

·2 min read
Great Neck, N.Y.: Protestors rally against what they perceive to be union busting tactics, outside a Starbucks in Great Neck, New York, demanding the reinstatement of a former employee, on August 15, 2022
Union efforts have spread across the US, with more than 200 stores in states including Massachusetts, Georgia, and Ohio voting to unionize.Thomas A. Ferrara/Newsday RM via Getty Images
  • A judge ordered Starbucks to reinstate the "Memphis Seven," who say they were fired over union activity.

  • Starbucks said the workers, including five members of an organizing committee, violated security policies.

  • A judge in Tennessee said their reinstatement was "just and proper."

Starbucks has been ordered to reinstate seven workers in Memphis, Tennessee who say they were fired for carrying out pro-union activity.

The workers, who made up around a third of the store's total workforce and included five of the store's six-person organizing committee, were fired in February. Starbucks said this was because they violated security policies by staying in the store after hours, allowing a TV crew behind the counter and in the back of the house, and, in the case of one worker, opening the store safe without permission.

The union Starbucks Workers United said that the company fired the workers – known as the "Memphis Seven" – in retaliation for organizing and speaking to the media.

Workers United filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board, which in turn lodged a complaint against Starbucks in May, alleging that the coffee giant unlawfully fired the workers for engaging in union activities and to discourage other staff from engaging in them.

The NLRB filing says that since January, Starbucks has supervised workers at the Memphis store "more closely," including getting managers to visit more often and for longer.

At one point, the store's manager also confiscated and removed pro-union materials made by customers from the community bulletin board, according to the filings. Among other things, the NLRB asked Starbucks to give the fired workers their jobs back.

"The Court agrees with the Board that reinstatement of the Memphis Seven is just and proper," District Judge Sheryl Lipman wrote in a filing Thursday.

Starbucks did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment, made outside of normal working hours.

The huge union drive at Starbucks started last August when workers in Buffalo, New York announced plans to unionize, citing understaffing, product shortages, and their experiences working during the pandemic.

Workers at a store on Elmwood Ave, Buffalo voted to form a union, the first-ever at a corporate-owned Starbucks store in the US, in December.

Union efforts have spread across the US, with more than 200 stores in states including MassachusettsGeorgia, and Ohio voting to unionize.

The NLRB has said that at other stores Starbucks has surveilled staff by listening in to their headset conversations, banned them from talking about wages, and got company officials to make "unprecedented and repeated visits" to the stores.

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