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Starbucks notches legal win in battle against union organizers

A federal judge in Arizona ruled that Starbucks did not have to reinstate or give accommodations to three workers who claimed they were retaliated against for union organizing.
Matt Rourke
/
AP
A federal judge in Arizona ruled that Starbucks did not have to reinstate or give accommodations to three workers who claimed they were retaliated against for union organizing.

A federal judge has ruled that Starbucks did not have to reinstate or give accommodations to three employees who claim they were retaliated against for organizing a union.

Starbucks workers are driving a nationwide wave in union organizing, with successful votes at more than 100 locations. The case is a notable ruling in support of the corporation.

At a store in Phoenix, three employees who were advocating for a union say they were wrongfully dismissed. They claim they were forced out through intentional scheduling obstacles or denied accommodations through the Americans with Disabilities Act and put on leave.

The National Labor Relations Board had asked a court to compel Starbucks to reinstate the workers and give ADA accommodations to one of them. The court on Wednesday ruled that Starbucks did not immediately have to rehire two of the employees. The third has returned to work at the store, but has not received accommodations, according to a shift supervisor.

"The ruling by the judge today is further evidence that any claims of anti-union activity are categorically false," Starbucks spokesperson Reggie Borges said in an email.

The case isn't over yet — it will be heard by an NLRB judge on June 14. Injunctions are meant to give temporary relief to workers who have to wait for their cases to be heard in court, a process that can take months.

The ruling is a blow to Starbucks Workers United, the union that since December of last year has gained support at stores across the U.S., including at the Phoenix location.

"While yesterday was a setback for us, it in no way stops anything in regards to what we're doing with our union organizing," said Bill Whitmire, a shift supervisor at the store.

There are currently more than 180 open NLRB cases about unfair labor practices involving Starbucks, according to the organization's records.

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