Advance Notice: Briefs

Unlawfully fired Starbucks barista back to work at Ann Arbor store following court order

By: - May 22, 2023 7:51 am

Sign supporting illegally fired former Starbucks employee Hannah Whitbeck as part of a worker strike at the 300 S. Main St. location in Ann Arbor, Nov. 17, 2022 | Laina G. Stebbins

A barista who was unlawfully fired from her job at a Starbucks store in Ann Arbor last year returned to work Monday after a judge ordered the coffee chain to reinstate her.

Hannah Whitbeck is the first Michigan Starbucks worker to be reinstated after being unlawfully terminated for union organizing, according to Starbucks Workers United, the union representing the employees.

“I am excited to be back in the store so I can continue to help the union effort and hold this company accountable,” Whitbeck said in a written statement. “Hopefully they will actually sit down and start bargaining in good faith with us soon so we can get the contract we are still fighting for and deserve.”

Whitbeck works at the store at 300 S. Main St., where her coworkers voted to form a union in June 2022.

At least 13 Starbucks stores in Michigan have voted to unionize, part of a wave of union activity at the coffee giant that started at a Buffalo, New York store in 2021.

In February, U.S. District Judge Mark A. Goldsmith ruled that Starbucks illegally fired Whitbeck for union organizing and ordered the company to rehire her with back pay. The coffee giant was also ordered to hold a meeting with employees and management to notify them that the company broke the law and that workers have a right to support unionization.

In the order, Goldsmith issued the first nationwide judicial mandate preventing the coffee giant from firing workers for engaging in union activity.

At the time, Workers United alleged Starbucks had fired more than 200 workers nationwide in retaliation for supporting union activities.

Whitbeck was fired in April 2022 after becoming the leading union organizer at the store. Starbucks countered that she was fired because she left work early, forcing another worker to manage the store alone for 20 to 30 minutes.

Goldsmith didn’t buy Starbucks’ explanation, saying there was reasonable cause to believe the company violated the National Labor Relations Act.

This story first ran in the Detroit Metro Times. Follow them: Google News | NewsBreak | Reddit | Instagram | Facebook Twitter

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Steve Neavling
Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist with the Detroit Metro Times. He operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker, Neavling was a five-year veteran of the Detroit Free Press, covering Detroit’s city hall.