Starbucks workers are organizing en masse, which is their legal and constitutional right, but Starbucks thinks it's above those rights.
Late last night, news broke that Starbucks had fired several Memphis employees involved in unionization efforts, saying the workers violated company policy. The violations appear to be more fabrication than anything else. Interesting, Starbucks still hasn't commented on forcing employees to attend captive audience meetings, which violated COVID-19 protocols and actually ended in two locations having to be temporarily closed.
The backlash to these illegal firings has been pronounced on Twitter and other social media platforms, but Starbucks needs to hear from its current and former customers:
In the United States, workers have the legal and constitutional right to organize unions -- something corporate American and the union-busting industry wants us to forget.
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) strictly prohibits employers from the following activities in Section 8, paragraphs 1-5:
- Interfering with employees as they engage in concerted activity
- Discriminating against an employee to discourage membership in a union
- Refusing to bargain collectively with a representative of the employees
- Interfering with the formation or administration of a union
- Discriminating against a worker because they have filed unfair labor practice charges
Violations of these provisions are known as Unfair Labor Practices. Such violations are unfortunately common in the workplace, so it is essential to be equipped to spot them when they occur. Such employer actions can warrant a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the organization which enforces the NLRA.
Unionizing your workplace isn't just protected by the National Labor Relations Act -- it's protected by the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment of the Constitution, which guarantees the freedom of speech, assembly, and petition, also guarantees freedom of association and is recognized by U.S. courts as a fundamental right. The freedom of association encompasses the right of the group to take collective action to pursue the interests of its members. For this obvious reason, the constitutionally protected freedom of association includes unionization and union-related activities.
Additionally, the freedom of association for the advancement of shared values is inseparable from "liberty" assured by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.