Starbucks Ordered To Rehire Illegally Fired Pittsburg Employees With Backpay

While Starbucks might be best known for its flavored lattes, more recently it has made headlines for what some might call self-created controversies. The coffee giant has been under fire lately for removing Pride Month decorations from its stores and is now on the receiving end of more criticism for its treatment of employees. In a significant win for unionized Starbucks workers, a National Labor Relations Board administrative judge has ruled that the Seattle-based coffee conglomerate violated labor laws by unfairly disciplining and firing four workers in an attempt to prevent the unionization of some stores in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The ruling has ordered the company to rehire those illegally fired employees and be compensated with back pay.

According to the decision handed down today by Judge Ringler, Starbucks has violated labor laws on numerous occasions. For example, while the two union leaders were fired for what alleged "time and attendance" issues, there are employees who were late far more often than them and yet were never fired. While another union advocate was fired for "availability" except he has been working with the same schedule without problems until the store was unionized.

Surveillance, intimidation, and other tactics

If this story sounds familiar, it may be because you heard a similar one play out earlier this year. Just a few months ago, a judge told the company it had to rehire seven workers it had fired from Buffalo-based Starbucks locations for similar reasons. But recent history was apparently doomed to repeat itself in Pittsburgh.

Aside from firing employees who sought to unionize the stores, Judge Ringler also noted other activities taken by Starbucks corporate representatives to hinder the unionization process. District managers were observed illegally surveilling employees, and employees have reported interrogation by other managers regarding their thoughts about unionizing, among other efforts by district managers to intimidate employees from voting to join the union.

As Judge Ringler noted, "Starbucks fired 3 of the 5 members of the Union's effects bargaining team. This appears to be less than coincidental. Or put another way, a whopping 60% firing rate for the effects bargaining team seems more like a purge than an evenhanded practice." As a result, Ringler concluded that "This repeated pattern of unlawful activity abundantly demonstrates a causal relationship between their firings and union activities". As a result of his findings, Ringler has ordered Starbucks to cease and desist any activities that violate labor laws and compensate the wrongly fired workers.