The National Labor Relations Board on Friday filed a complaint against Starbucks for unlawfully firing seven Memphis employees in retaliation for trying to unionize.
The labor authority said the company fired the workers in February for “joining or supporting the union and engaging in concerted activities and for discouraging employees from engaging in those activities.”
The workers are part of an organizing wave at Starbucks, in which workers at more than 20 stores have voted to organize and petitioned to hold elections in more than 200. The company has around 9,000 company-owned locations nationwide.
Complaints are filed after a regional bureau of the labor authority has concluded that allegations against employers or unions are well founded and are tried before an administrative judge. The regional bureau is trying to demand that Starbucks make the laid-off employees healthy again – for example, by reimbursement of lost wages. The company could appeal against a negative decision to the National Labor Board in Washington.
“While we’re excited about the news, from the moment each of us was fired, we knew this would be the result,” said Nikki Taylor, one of the laid-off workers, in a statement. “We’re excited for the public to learn the truth and get back to work at our soon-to-be-union Starbucks.”
Starbucks didn’t immediately comment, but said at the time it fired the workers for violating safety guidelines, including allowing media representatives to conduct after-hours interviews in the store and not wearing masks during the encounter.
Separately, the Arizona Department of Labor’s regional office on Friday filed a petition in federal court demanding the immediate reinstatement of three Phoenix workers who were unlawfully retaliated against by Starbucks in response to their union activities. The employment office filed a complaint against the company in March, alleging formal retaliation in the case.
The office argued in court Friday that it had a “substantial likelihood of success” in handling the complaint and that Starbucks would likely take similar actions during the proceeding unless its conduct was “promptly barred and restrained.”