The US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled Monday that Starbucks violated federal labor laws by firing two workers who were planning to organize a union at a Philadelphia store in 2020. The NLRB upheld the ruling of an administrative law judge which found that, in 2019 and 2020, Starbucks took illegal actions when it threatened, interrogated, and surveilled the two employees at the center of this lawsuit following their requests and demonstrations for equitable changes to their workplace. The case predates the massive unionizing of Starbucks workers across the country, which began in 2021.
The three-member NLRB panel ruled that Starbucks must provide backpay and offer reinstatement to the two former employees. The employees, listed in the decision as Echo Nowakowska and Tristan Bussiere, worked at a Philadelphia Starbucks for over a year when they both started to demand the store’s manager take accountability for the mistreatment of BIPOC and LGBTQ workers. The manager soon resigned while Nowakowska and Bussiere began organizing a union amongst other Philadelphia Starbucks workers. This effort was quickly squashed and the two workers were dismissed.
The NLRB panel ruled that Starbucks violated Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by improperly monitoring and dismissing two workers attempting to advocate for unionization and better working conditions. In a statement by Starbucks spokesperson Andrew Trull to Bloomberg, the company expressed its disappointment in the ruling. “We disagree with the decision and are considering all options to obtain a full legal review of the matter,” said Trull.
Starbucks has the ability to appeal the decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.