Judge orders Starbucks to stop firing union supporters after case in Ann Arbor

The coffee giant illegally fired an Ann Arbor worker after she became the leading union organizer

Feb 23, 2023 at 11:04 am
click to enlarge Workers United, the union organizing Starbucks stores, alleges Starbucks fired more than 200 workers in retaliation for supporting union activities. - Shutterstock
Shutterstock
Workers United, the union organizing Starbucks stores, alleges Starbucks fired more than 200 workers in retaliation for supporting union activities.

A federal judge issued an order banning Starbucks from firing workers who engage in union activity in a case stemming from a barista who was unlawfully terminated at an Ann Arbor store.

The judge ruled last week that Starbucks illegally fired Hannah Whitbeck for union organizing and must rehire her with back pay. The coffee giant was also ordered to hold a meeting with employees and management to notify them that the company broke the law and that workers have a right to support unionization.

In the order, U.S. District Judge Mark A. Goldsmith issued the first nationwide judicial mandate preventing the coffee giant from firing workers for engaging in union activity.

“The District Court’s ruling confirms that Starbucks continues to violate the law in egregious ways, thus requiring a nationwide cease and desist order,” Jennifer Abruzzo, general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board, said in a statement this week. “Specifically, in addition to ordering reinstatement of an unlawfully fired union supporter, the judge appropriately ordered Starbucks to stop discharging and otherwise interfering with workers’ rights to organize at all its stores around the country.”

She added, “We will continue to vigorously pursue swift and full remedies for workers whose rights are violated.”

The injunction comes amid a wave of union activity at Starbucks. Workers at more than 275 Starbucks nationwide have voted to unionize in a little over a year. In Michigan, workers formed a union in 12 Starbuck stores. Earlier this month, “an overwhelming majority” of hourly workers at a Starbucks store in Allen Park signed union authorization cards.

Workers United, the union organizing Starbucks stores, alleges Starbucks fired more than 200 workers in retaliation for supporting union activities.

Whitbeck was fired in April after becoming the leading union organizer at the store at Main and Liberty.

Starbucks countered that she was fired because she left work early, forcing another worker to manage the store alone for 20 to 30 minutes.

Goldsmith didn’t buy Starbucks’ explanation, saying there was reasonable cause to believe the company violated the National Labor Relations Act.

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