Starbucks illegally fired six workers in New York state in a pushback against unions, a U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) judge has ruled.
BBC News reports the judge says the firm committed "egregious and widespread" violations of federal labor law at its stores in cities of Buffalo and Rochester. The coffee chain has been ordered to rehire the ex-workers and compensate others who were affected.
In response, Starbucks said its actions were lawful and in line with policies.
In a more than 200-page decision, Michael A Rosas, who is a federal administrative law judge, also ordered Starbucks to re-hire another worker that he ruled had been illegally forced out of their job. Rosas said Starbucks had showed "a general disregard for the employees' fundamental rights" in response to union campaigns. The judge added that the company interrogated and threatened workers and restricted discussion of pay.
The NLRB is an independent federal agency with the power to safeguard employees' rights to unionize at their workplaces.
Last year, workers at around 270 of Starbucks stores across the U.S. voted to join unions, despite opposition from the firm. Starbucks has around 9,000 company-owned stores in the U.S..
Starbucks — which has long prided itself on its reputation as a progressive, worker-friendly employer — has said it respects workers' right to protest. In recent months, the company has raised pay and made other changes in response to the discontent.
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