Starbucks faces pressure from labor board to get Memphis employees rehired

There are 128 open Starbucks-related unfair labor practice cases

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is asking the United States District Court to rehire seven Memphis Starbucks workers who labor officials say were unlawfully fired for exercising their right to unionize. 

It's a claim that Starbucks has denied. 


In early February, seven union activists in Memphis were all fired on the same day, "including five of the six members of the union organizing committee," the labor board said Tuesday.  

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Starbucks said the employees were let go because they violated "numerous" company policies by reopening a store after closing time and inviting non-employees to come inside and move throughout the store. The employees used the store to do an interview with a local television station about their unionizing effort.

However, the employees, who were fired after a local news outlet covered the employees' union organization efforts, accused Starbucks of "union-busting" and vowed to file a complaint with the labor board. 


The labor board said in a statement Tuesday that "Starbucks directed a wide variety of coercive measures at its employees, including disciplining the employee responsible for starting the campaign" after learning about organizing efforts. 

Then, "following increased media coverage and public support for the campaign, Starbucks terminated seven Union activists," the labor board continued.  

Under the National Labor Relations Act, the labor board is allowed to seek injunctions against employers and unions in an attempt to "stop unfair labor practices where, due to the passage of time, the normal Board processes are likely to be inadequate to effectively remedy the alleged violations."

The move comes less than a month after the labor board fought to rehire three employees who were allegedly fired for unionizing efforts in Phoenix. 

"Without immediate interim relief from this Court, Starbucks could irreparably harm the campaign in Memphis, and send a chilling message to its employees across the country that they too will suffer the same fate as the terminated Memphis employees if they dare to exercise their right to engage in protected activities," Region 15 Regional Director Kathleen McKinney said in a statement. 

However, a Starbucks spokesperson told FOX Business that the "allegations contained in the filing by the NLRB Regional Director are false, and we look forward to presenting our evidence when the allegations are adjudicated." 

The spokesperson also said that "a partner’s right to organize does not exempt them from adhering to our policies." 


Starbucks has also fired back at the unions targeting its stores, alleging dirty tactics, and filed unfair labor charges against union organizers with the labor board. 

Starbucks union

Pro-union pins sit on a table during a watch party for Starbucks' employees union election, Dec. 9, 2021, in Buffalo, N.Y.  (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex, File / AP Newsroom)

As of Tuesday evening, there are 128 open Starbucks-related unfair labor practice cases spread across 20 NLRB regions and 19 states, according to data from the labor board. 

Workers United, the group leading the Starbucks union push across the nation, has filed 125 of these cases and Starbucks has filed two. 

Starbucks’ North American head Rossann Williams has told employees in the past that the company respects "the right for partners to choose to speak for themselves in the workplace or have Workers United speak for them." 

However, "that right can’t override the fundamental responsibility we all have, as partners, to treat one another with dignity and respect," she continued. 

FOX Business' Breck Dumas and the Associated Press contributed to this report.