Federal Officials Sue Starbucks to Reinstate Fired Union Activists - New Style Motorsport

Officials from the National Labor Relations Board have gone to federal court in an effort to get three Starbucks workers who are union activists back on the job.

A regional board director in Arizona filed a petition for a temporary injunction Friday, saying Starbucks retaliated against three members of a union organizing committee. Two of the workers were fired and the third was placed on unpaid leave, according to the filing.

Board official Cornele Overstreet has asked the court to reinstate the Starbucks workers to their normal work hours and expunge their disciplinary records.

Oversreet also requested that a high-ranking Starbucks official read the injunction aloud in the presence of a board official, and that a video recording of the reading be made available to Starbucks workers across the country.

The board can go to federal court for such an injunction when it believes workers have been threatened during an organizing drive and that such threats could cause “irreparable harm” if not stopped.

In this case, Overstreet argues that Starbucks’ actions have created an atmosphere of retaliation and that workers could “irreversibly lose” board protections if something isn’t done quickly.

If granted, such an injunction would mark a significant victory for Workers United, the union that has been organizing Starbucks stores across the country since last year. The union has accused Starbucks of retaliating against several union activists to cool down the unionization drive.

“In seeking an injunction, the labor board argues that Starbucks’ actions have led to an atmosphere of retaliation.”

Starbucks has maintained that it was justified in disciplining workers from Arizona, as well as a group of workers from Memphis, Tennessee, who were fired, saying they all violated company policies. Labor board officials disagree, claiming the company targeted them because of their activism.

Shortly before Overstreet filed for the injunction in federal court, board officials filed a separate complaint against Starbucks with the NLRB on Friday. That complaint was related to the Tennessee workers who were laid off, known as the Memphis 7.

Starbucks fired those workers in February after a local television station interviewed them in the store about the organizing effort. Starbucks said workers violated company policy by allowing non-employees into the store while it was closed, among other alleged violations.

But a regional board director in New Orleans, Kathleen McKinney, said Starbucks fired the seven employees because they “assisted the Union and participated in concerted activities” that are protected by labor law. She also said managers “confiscated and removed pro-union materials from the community bulletin board” at the store.

McKinney said Starbucks should have to make laid-off workers “whole,” including by “reimbursing them for all consequential damages they incurred as a result of [Starbucks’] illicit conduct.”

The charge related to the Memphis workers would be litigated within the NLRB. But it’s still possible that board officials will go to federal court seeking an injunction like the workers in Arizona.

Starbucks has roughly 9,000 corporate-owned stores in the US, all of which were not unionized until Workers United began organizing last year. So far, 26 stores have voted to unionize and many more have petitioned the labor board to hold elections.

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