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Supreme Court Likely To Support Starbucks In Dispute Over Staff Firing

Starbucks coffee

The US Supreme Court seemed to support Starbucks in a dispute over the reinstatement of seven workers fired from a Tennessee cafe for trying to unionize.

This case has garnered attention as it challenges the National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) authority over urgent labor practice disputes.

The central issue is the application of the National Labor Relations Act.

The act allows the NLRB to seek preliminary injunctions to stop perceived unfair labor practices while cases are still under review. 

Starbucks argued federal courts should adhere to a stricter standard when granting such injunctions, a protocol similar to that used in other legal contexts.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, representing the conservative faction, questioned the Justice Department lawyer, Austin Raynor.


Raynor said the NLRB uses injunctions selectively for the most severe cases.

He said: “The board receives 20,000 unfair labor charges every year. It issues 750 complaints. 

“Last year, it authorized 14 petitions and filed seven. That’s seven out of 20,000.”

He added: “This is an expert agency that has said, ‘We think these are the most deserving of relief.’”

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson also weighed in.

They both questioned the criteria for determining which cases merit such urgent action. 

Starbucks accused of anti-union practices

Roberts suggested the cases chosen for injunctions might be those the NLRB finds most at risk of failing.

The backdrop of this legal challenge is a broader context of labor disputes at Starbucks.

More than 400 store locations have now unionized and more than 10,000 employees involved. 

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The company faces numerous complaints about alleged anti-union practices, which it denies, asserting its respect for employees' rights to unionize.

Starbucks and the union representatives announced a preliminary agreement earlier this year to mitigate ongoing disputes.

They sought to establish a framework for organizing and collective bargaining to resolve legal conflicts.

The case originated from an incident at the Poplar Avenue store in Memphis, where employees were fired after a union-related media event.

The Supreme Court's decision is expected by late June.

It could impact the enforcement capabilities of the NLRB and the landscape of labor law in the US.

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