The Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal on Friday Starbucks A court ordered the coffee chain to rehire seven workers at one of its cafes in Memphis, Tennessee, after a federal agency ruled they were fired for supporting a union.
The justices heard Starbucks’ appeal of a lower court ruling that found in 2022 that by firing the Memphis workers, the company prevented other workers from exercising their rights under US labor law. This is the first job to arrive. Supreme Court includes ongoing nationwide campaign Connecting Starbucks stores.
The Memphis store is one of more than 370 Starbucks stores in the United States that have joined since 2021. The Seattle-based company hasn’t been unionized in decades.
The US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has concluded that Starbucks illegally fired Memphis workers for supporting a union initiative and sending messages to other workers.
The NLRB sought an injunction to force Starbucks to rehire its workers, which Memphis-based U.S. District Judge Sheryl Lipman granted. In 2023, the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati, Ohio, upheld Lipman’s decision in 2023, blaming Starbucks’ actions.
Starbucks said it fired employees for violating the company’s security policy by opening stores without consent and letting reporters inside. The company said last year it rehired seven employees to comply with Lipman’s order, but it is continuing to appeal the 6th Circuit decision to the Supreme Court.
The company said the 6th Circuit applied too low a bar, requiring the NLRB to show only that it had “reasonable cause” to believe the company had committed labor law violations. Major business groups have urged the Supreme Court to hear Starbucks’ appeal, arguing that the 6th Circuit and other federal courts have made it too easy for the NLRB to win court orders requiring businesses to take steps to eliminate allegedly illegal labor practices.
More than 700 complaints have been filed with the NLRB accusing Starbucks of illegal labor practices, including firing union supporters, spying on workers and closing stores during labor campaigns.
The 6th Circuit is hearing Starbucks’ appeal of an NLRB ruling in a separate case barring the company from firing or disciplining employees at a location in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Other U.S. appeals courts are reviewing NLRB rulings that Starbucks illegally fired union organizers in Philadelphia and refused to bargain with union workers in Seattle.
The company has denied wrongdoing and said it offers workers competitive wages and benefits and respects their rights under federal labor law.