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Starbucks ordered to reinstate fired Memphis staff

BBC News logo BBC News 8/18/2022
© Reuters

A US judge ordered Starbucks to reinstate seven workers in Tennessee who say they were sacked in retaliation for pro-union activity.

It is a victory for labour regulators, who sued Starbucks over the sackings, arguing that restoring the jobs was key to prevent future labour violations.

Starbucks denies retaliation. It said it would appeal against the decision.

Judge Sheryl Lipman said regulators had presented enough evidence to suggest labour law violations had occurred.

She said reinstatement was "just and proper" whilst the claims worked their way through the judicial process, which can take years.

Starbucks dismissed the seven staff members in Memphis in February.

In the months since, organisers for the union Starbucks Workers United have accused Starbucks of firing more than 75 pro-union staff across the country, which they allege is part of a wider crackdown intended to stop their movement.

The National Labor Relations Board, the federal labour watchdog, sued Starbucks over the Memphis sackings in May after investigating the incident.

Starbucks has said it fired the workers for breaking company rules, including letting non-staff into the store after closing. In this case, it was said that staff had allowed reporters into the cafe for a television interview about the union effort.

The company said it planned to appeal Judge Lipman's decision, which could postpone any re-hiring.

"We strongly disagree with the judge's ruling," Starbucks said in a statement.

"These individuals violated numerous policies and failed to maintain a secure 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."

Since the union campaign launched last year, staff at roughly 220 Starbucks stores across the US have voted to join a union, giving them the power to negotiate pay, benefits and other work conditions collectively.

Starbucks, which owns nearly 9,000 stores in the US and licenses hundreds more, says it prefers to handle complaints directly with staff, without involving a "third party".

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