NLRB Petitions for Preliminary Injunction in Starbucks Union Case

On Tuesday, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a petition against Starbucks Corporation in the Eastern District of Michigan. The agency sought a preliminary injunction under Section 10(j) of the National Labor Relations Act (the Act) requiring Starbucks, to among other things, reinstate an employee that an administrative law judge determined was wrongly dismissed for engaging in protected unionization efforts.

Specifically, the agency asked for expedited consideration of its request that the court order the coffee house chain to refrain from “discharging employees at any of its stores in the United States and its territories for supporting the [Workers United] Union or any other labor organization.” The NLRB also requested that Starbucks be compelled to let employees know about the injunction and for it to remain in effect “pending final disposition of the matters involved here pending before the Board [NLRB].”

The former Starbucks employee whose reinstatement is at issue is Hannah Whitbeck, who, according to the NLRB, worked in a store in Ann Arbor, Mich. and who Starbucks discharged in April 2022. Reportedly, the store became unionized shortly after her dismissal.

The NLRB argued that the requested relief is essential because the process before the NLRB will take a long time, during which Starbucks workers’ rights to organize will be irreparably harmed. In this regard, the NLRB noted that Starbucks has advised that “… it would not comply with the [Administrative Law Judge’s] Decision because it intends to file exceptions to the Decision with the Board in Washington D.C.” 

The NLRB, emphasizing the broad attention Whitbeck’s situation has garnered, countered that “many courts … have recognized that the discriminatory discharge of a union activist predictably chills union support and interferes with collective bargaining.” Lastly, NLRB contended that its “General Counsel is prosecuting 14 complaints against Starbucks over 34 unlawfully discharged employees around the country, and additional cases are still under consideration.”