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NLRB Seeks 4th 10(j) Injunction Against Starbucks

For the fourth time in the past six months prosecutors with the NLRB have sought a 10(j) injunction against Starbucks (click here to read prior Brody and Associates article).  Using a 10(j) injunction request, the NLRB asked a Michigan federal court to reinstate an employee at one of Starbucks’ Ann Arbor, Michigan, locations pending the outcome of her underlying case.

The fired employee was Hannah Whitbeck. She was fired last April, less than a week after she was quoted in a local newspaper article about the unionizing trend sweeping across Starbucks.  Previously, Ms. Whitbeck had contacted Workers United (the union leading the Starbucks unionizing charge), posted online her support of unionizing Starbucks’ workers, spoke openly to her co-workers about the Starbucks’ union campaign, and wore a union button to work.

Immediately upon Ms. Whitbeck’s termination, Workers United filed an unfair labor practice contesting her termination.  On October 7th, after an administrative trial, the NLRB Administrative Law Judge found Starbucks unlawfully fired Whitbeck for participating in union activity and ordered her reinstatement.  However, this decision was appealed by Starbucks (and therefore enforcement was postponed until the appeal was resolved), which led to the filing of the 10(j) injunction seeking immediate, preliminary reinstatement of Ms. Whitbeck.

Pursuant to Section 10(j) of the National Labor Relations Act, federal courts can impose a preliminary injunction against an employer to stop an employer’s alleged unfair labor practice.  NLRB prosecutors have requested 10(j) injunctions against Starbucks previously in New York, Tennessee and Arizona.

In August, a Tennessee federal judge granted prosecutors’ 10(j) request ordering Starbucks to rehire seven workers at a Memphis Starbucks.  Over the summer these individuals garnered much notoriety and have become known as the “Memphis 7.”  (Click here to read Brody and Associates article on the Memphis 7).

In July of this year, an Arizona federal judge denied another 10(j) request sighting that such an injunction was not warranted.  Currently, another Starbucks 10(j) injunction is pending in New York.

We have written previously on how the NLRB’s General Counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo, is looking for opportunities to utilize 10(j) injunctions to thwart alleged unfair labor practices by employers. This most recent filing is more proof of the General Counsel’s desire to use this tool and readers should expect more10(j) injunctions to be used by the NLRB against Starbucks or other businesses.

Brody and Associates regularly advises its clients on all labor management issues, including union-related matters, and provides union-free training.  If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or 203.454.0560.