The National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint against Starbucks on Friday for what the agency said was the unlawful firing of seven employees in Memphis in retaliation for seeking to unionize.
The labor board said the company fired the workers in February because they “joined or assisted the union and engaged in concerted activities, and to discourage employees from engaging in these activities.”
The employees are part of a wave of organizing at Starbucks in which workers have voted to unionize at more than 20 stores and filed petitions to hold votes at more than 200. The company has roughly 9,000 corporate-owned locations nationwide.
Complaints are issued after a labor board regional office concludes that there is merit to accusations against employers or unions and are litigated before an administrative law judge. The regional office is seeking to require that Starbucks make the fired employees whole — for example, by reimbursing them for lost wages. The company could appeal an adverse decision to the national labor board in Washington.
“Although we are excited about the news, we knew from the moment each of us were terminated that this would be the outcome,” Nikki Taylor, one of the fired workers, said in a statement. “We are excited for the public to know the truth and to return to work at our soon-to-be-unionized Starbucks.”
Starbucks did not immediately comment but said at the time that it had fired the workers for violating safety and security policies, including allowing members of the media into the store to conduct interviews after hours and failing to wear masks during the encounter.
Separately on Friday, the labor board regional office in Arizona filed a petition in federal court seeking the immediate reinstatement of three Phoenix workers it says Starbucks unlawfully retaliated against in response to their union activities. The labor board office had issued a complaint against the company in March making formal accusations of retaliation in the case.
The office argued in court on Friday that it stood a “substantial likelihood of success” in litigating the complaint and that Starbucks was likely to engage in similar acts during the proceedings unless its conduct was “immediately enjoined and restrained.”