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April 13, 2023
A federal judge ordered Starbucks this week to reinstate seven fired workers who were terminated after giving an interview to a news station about their efforts to unionize the store where they worked in Memphis, Tennessee.
The seven former baristas were fired from their jobs at the Starbucks location on Poplar Avenue in Memphis six months ago. The company claimed the employees were fired because appearing in the news interview violated company policy, but thanks to efforts by the union, Starbucks Workers United, and the National Labor Relations Board, their positions have been given back to them.
U.S. District Judge Sheryl Lipman ruled on Thursday that Starbucks had failed to prove that they had similarly enforced such punishment on other employees in other situations, and agreed with the plaintiffs that the firings were in retaliation for the unionization efforts.
The judge said the coffee giant had shown discrimination in its decision to terminate the seven employees, who are known as the “Memphis Seven.” The judge also said the NLRB had provided “evidence consistent with the theory that Starbucks discriminatorily applied its policies to the Memphis Seven when terminating them.”
The Memphis Seven continued to push for unionization of the store even after they were terminated. They celebrated with the employees when the vote to unionize passed in June. Nikki Taylor, one of the Seven, told reporters at the time, “The reason that I am filled with tears is because Memphis Seven has fought so hard. To know that that work didn’t go in vain, that fight didn’t go in vain, that losing sleep didn’t go in vain, it’s amazing to me.”
Starbucks was ordered to offer the employees their jobs back within seven days. Starbucks has said it plans to appeal the ruling.
ARTICLE: LAURA SPIVAK
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: BANGOR DAILY NEWS