Starbucks illegally fired an employee at one of the coffee giant’s stores in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for participating in union activism, a National Labor Relations Board judge ruled Friday.
The decision requires Starbucks to offer the worker reinstatement with back pay and hold a meeting with employees, management, government representatives and the union to clarify the workers’ rights and confirm the board̵[ads1]7;s conclusion that the company violated the law.
“I hope they learn their lesson, that firing people because they want to start a union is not going to solve their problems,” the fired employee, Hannah Whitbeck, told Bloomberg in an interview. “In fact, it’s only going to make it worse.”
The ruling comes amid a series of disputes between the coffee chain and Workers United, a labor group that organizes for unionization at Starbucks stores across the country. Starbucks has said allegations of anti-union activity by the company are “categorically false” and has denied wrongdoing in Whitbeck’s case.
In Friday’s ruling, according to Bloomberg, the NLRB judge wrote that the board’s general counsel had demonstrated that Starbucks “acted with animus” when it fired the employee, who had participated in efforts to organize the store in question. Starbucks has not indicated whether it plans to appeal.
The union that represents employees, Starbucks Workers United, has accused the company of firing more than 80 employees because of their activism. The Starbucks union has reaped 220 electoral victories out of roughly 9,000 company-owned U.S. stores in the past year.
Starbucks store workers — or “partners” — who support union efforts have said they are underpaid, undertrained and mistreated. These claims have been largely denied by the company.
“From the beginning, we have been clear in our belief that we do not desire a merger between us as partners, and that belief has not changed,” Starbucks’ executive vice president Rossann Williams said in a statement last year. “Our hope is that shop stewards will also come to the table with mutual good faith, respect and positive intentions.”
Separately, the NLRB said last week that petitions for union representation increased 53% in fiscal year 2022 compared to 2021 — the highest number since 2016.
The board said employees are approaching established and independent unions in an effort to address a range of workplace issues, including wages, benefits and concerns related to pandemic health and safety.
“Given the increase in case intake we are seeing in the field, we can expect even more cases to come before the Board in fiscal year 2023,” NLRB Chair Lauren McFerran said in a statement.
The NLRB said 2,510 union petitions were filed in the fiscal year through September, up from 1,638 in the same period a year earlier. Unfair labor practice charges filed with NLRB field offices increased 19%, the agency added.
Although union efforts at Starbucks and Amazon have received the most public attention, a number of workers’ stations from other, sometimes unexpected, quarters have joined them.
In a memo Thursday, the NRLB said 30 dancers at a topless bar in Hollywood, Calif., would vote next month on whether to join the Actors Equity Association, a union representing 51,000 professional actors and stage managers.
Dancers at Star Garden Topless Dive Bar have been campaigning for months for better working conditions, including higher wages, access to benefits, better security and safer stages.
If a majority of the dancers vote to organize, they will become the only organized group of strippers in the United States. Previously, strippers at San Francisco’s Lusty Lady organized under the Exotic Dancers Union in 1996. The Lusty Lady closed in 2013.