It was the largest court crackdown in an 18-month campaign to unionize Starbucks: Last week, a federal judge in Michigan gave the order blocking Starbucks from firing any American worker for engaging in collective action such as trying to form a union.
Union supporters cheered. Starbucks appeared caught off guard, calling the order “extraordinary” and “unauthorized” and denying the company broke the law.
But a few days later, Judge Mark A. Goldsmith announced that he had made certain unspecified “errors” and withdrawn his earlier injunction. On Thursday, Judge Goldsmith issued a new injunction — only this time it was limited to a store in Michigan where one worker said she was fired for her involvement in union organizing. The domestic scope of the injunction has disappeared.
In a revised opinion that accompanied Thursday’s order, Judge Goldsmith said the key criterion for deciding whether to impose a statewide injunction was whether the company had a general policy of labor violations. He said that while the National Labor Relations Board had filed about 24 grievances involving roughly 50 workers laid off by Starbucks nationwide, many of those cases were in the early stages.
As a result, Judge Goldsmith concluded that the evidence supported an injunction only at the Ann Arbor, Michigan, store where an employment judge found in October that the worker had been illegally fired.
Legal experts said the original court order would have allowed the labor board to seek expedited reinstatement of workers who were laid off at any of the roughly 9,000 company-owned Starbucks stores in the country, and that it could have resulted in fines if the court found that Starbucks continued laid off workers due to union organizing. Now these measures will only apply to one store.
The Labor Office’s general counsel, which oversees the agency that went to federal court to rehire the worker, called the reversal disappointing, but said in a statement that “the judge’s revised order still provides critical protections to Starbucks’ Ann Arbor workers.” business.” The statement said the agency will continue to seek statewide remedies for labor violations “as appropriate.”
The Workers United union said it “will continue to fight for a national remedy that would address Starbucks’ unprecedented campaign against unions and hold the company accountable for its actions.”
A Starbucks spokesperson said: “We are pleased that the court denied the National Labor Relations Board’s overreaching and inappropriate request for a nationwide cease and desist order as we seek a full legal review of the merits of the case.
As to why the court originally issued the domestic injunction before vacating it, Judge Goldsmith’s opinion did not elaborate.
Legal experts said they could not recall seeing a judge make a similar face. “I don’t think I could think of anything like that,” Wilma Liebman, former chairwoman of the National Labor Relations Board, said in an email.
Ms. Liebman said the most likely explanation she could imagine was that the board had given the judge the order it sought and that the judge had incorporated the order without sufficient modification — “carelessly, but not intentionally,” Ms. Liebman said. .
A court clerk said the judge could not comment.