Starbucks Must Rehire Illegally Fired Pittsburgh Employees, According To Judge

A Starbucks in Pittsburgh must hire back employees after the U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled in July that they were fired illegally in. Now, a little more than a year after being terminated, at least one fired employee is back to work at the Market Square coffee shop. 

In what Starbucks Workers United called "a victory for workers," Judge Robert A. Ringler ruled in favor of the fired employees, who were let go on the grounds of failure to arrive punctually and lack of availability. The ruling, however, disputes that this was the true reasoning behind the termination. The contents of the decision revealed that the Starbucks location inconsistently disciplines late employees, oftentimes forgoing consequences whatsoever. The store had also long been tolerant of employees' availability in the past. Meanwhile, testimony from workers shows instances of threats and interrogations, and higher-ups creating an atmosphere of surveillance, all of which were directed at employees who were participating in union activities. This evidence led Ringler to conclude that the employees were unlawfully fired and to mandate that the Starbucks location rehire the workers as well as compensate them for any losses incurred as a result of these actions.

A recurring offense for the company

This is not the first time that a Starbucks location has been under fire for alleged union-busting. Similar rulings have come out in recent years across the country, in places like New York, Tennessee, Arizona, and Michigan, among others. Each time, the NLRB has ruled in favor of the employees, stating that Starbucks acted unlawfully by terminating employees under false pretenses due to their visible involvement in union activities. In every case, the location in question has been required to reinstate the fired workers.

Robert A. Ringler, the judge in the Pittsburgh ruling, found Starbucks' conduct so blatant that he issued a cease and desist to the Starbucks corporation, requiring that it stop any instance of "interfering with, restraining, or coercing its employees," which includes behaviors such as making threats, performing interrogations, or more harshly disciplining employees on the basis of their union involvement.

Tori Tambellini, the recently reinstated Starbucks employee, told CBS News Pittsburgh that she has "spent the past year helping other stores learn how to unionize, building better leadership across the campaign, and becoming a better leader and organizer myself," adding, "Honestly, getting fired from Starbucks is one of the best things to ever happen to me"