In May, Starbucks abruptly shuttered a unionized store in Ithaca, New York. This week, a National Labor Relations Board judge ruled that Starbucks had violated federal labor law, and ordered the company to reopen the store.
The College Avenue store, near Cornell University, was one of three Ithaca stores that closed after workers unionized, a move that the union characterized as retaliation. In a Thursday ruling, Judge Arthur Amchan wrote that the College Avenue store’s closure “was done in large part to discourage unionization efforts in Ithaca and elsewhere” and that Starbucks hadn’t proved that it wouldn’t have closed the store “absent its animus towards the pro-union employees who worked there,” Bloomberg reports.
As my colleague Noah Lanard wrote, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz had billed himself as a benevolent CEO, but, in coming out of retirement to attempt to quell the growing movement to unionize Starbucks cafes, has shown a different side of his American dream. The company has increased wages and allowed baristas to receive tips by credit cards—but only at non-union stores.
The Ithaca store closures aren’t the first examples of outright retaliation. As Noah reports:
According to an NLRB court filing, illegal firings of pro-union workers became routine. In one case, seven workers leading a drive at a Memphis store were simultaneously fired; a federal judge later found that to be illegal retaliation and ordered their jobs be offered back.
The judge in the Ithaca case ruled that Starbucks should rehire the axed workers with back pay and post notices about workers’ rights in its stores nationwide. Starbucks plans to appeal.