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Supreme Court to hear case on Starbucks’ firing of pro-union baristas

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear Starbucks’ appeal of a court order requiring the coffee chain to reinstate seven employees at one of its stores in Memphis, Tennessee, that a federal agency found were fired for pro-union activities.

The baristas, dubbed the “Memphis Seven,” contend they were fired for participating in a high-profile effort to organize a union, and filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. A federal judge ordered Starbucks to rehire the workers in 2022, with a federal appeals court affirming the decision last year. 

At issue is the standard used for court injunctions requested by the NLRB in their legal sparring with employers in administrative proceedings.

Starbucks claims certain courts are granting the NLRB too much leeway, with differing appeals court rulings sending a mixed message to employees nationwide, which “unacceptably threatens the uniformity of federal labor law,” Starbuck’s attorneys wrote to the Supreme Court. 

“We are pleased the Supreme Court has decided to consider our request to level the playing field for all U.S. employers by ensuring that a single standard is applied as federal district courts determine whether to grant 10(j) injunctions pursued by the National Labor Relations Board,” Starbucks said in a statement to CBS Moneywatch.

The seven workers were terminated after publicly posting a letter to Starbucks’ CEO and also sitting down in their Memphis store with a TV news crew in January 2022 to discuss their union work. 

Starbucks contended it terminated the workers for violating a safety policy by opening the store without approval and letting unauthorized people inside.

“With the Supreme Court agreeing to take up the Memphis case, Starbucks just expanded its war on its own employees to a war on all U.S. workers. All working people should be appalled and join our fight to make sure corporations are held accountable to the law,” Starbucks Workers United said in an emailed statement.

A decision in the case is considered likely by the end of June.

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