Supreme Court steps into Starbucks union fight

The Supreme Court on Friday will hear an appeal from Starbucks' ruling that ordered the coffee chain to reinstate seven laid-off employees who became known as the “Memphis Seven” after joining a high-profile union movement. Agreed.

Because of its implications for broader worker organizing, the justices decide the appropriate standard for a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)-requested court injunction in an administrative dispute with an employer. In order to do so, this lawsuit will be taken up.

The injunctions, aimed at preserving the status quo, force companies to suspend reinstatement of employees, keeping facilities open and changes to corporate policies while the NLRB adjudicates allegations of unfair labor practices.

However, federal appeals courts disagree on what tests the NLRB must pass to receive such an order.

Starbucks, with support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other corporate stakeholders, said some courts, like the one that ordered the reinstatement of the Memphis Seven, were too lenient and the NLRB intervened against employers without just cause. He claims to be encouraging people to do more.

“This split has significant implications for employers across the country and poses an unacceptable threat to the uniformity of federal labor law,” Starbucks' lawyers wrote to the judge.

In Memphis, seven Starbucks employees were fired after they publicly posted a letter to the company's CEO and sat in the store. with a TV news crew He is scheduled to speak about union organizing efforts in January 2022.

The coffee retail giant has legally suspended an employee who violated company policy on the day of a TV interview by going behind the counter while off-duty and unlocking a locked door to allow an unauthorized person into the store. announced that he had been fired.

In August 2022, a federal district judge ruled in favor of the NLRB and ordered Starbucks to reinstate its employees, a decision later upheld by a panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Starbucks then appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Sixth Circuit, along with four other federal appellate courts, upholds the NLRB's injunction if the two-factor “good cause” test shows that the employer is engaging in an unfair labor practice. ing.

Four other federal appeals courts have adopted the four-factor test used in other situations when parties seek preliminary injunctions, but Starbucks maintains the standard is higher.

However, the Department of Justice (DOJ) urged the judge not to take on the case, rejecting the idea that the different tests are contrasting.

“The court's decision is consistent with any decision of this court,” the Justice Department wrote in a court filing. “And while different appellate courts have used different verbal language to describe the standards for granting Section 10(j) relief, those terminological differences do not warrant our review. .”

The case is likely to be part of the last group to be heard this term, with a decision expected by the end of June.

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