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How a Starbucks legal case could change the entire union landscape


Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Starbucks’ appeal of one of many labor-related lawsuits filed against the Seattle-based coffee chain. This appeal is Starbucks’ response to an Aug. 2022 U.S. district court decision, which ordered the coffee chain to reinstate seven previously fired workers in Memphis, Tenn., who were terminated earlier that year during an attempt to unionize the store.

In this case, there is more at stake for both Starbucks, the National Labor Relations Board, and the future of union relations in the country than just one case involving seven formerly fired workers, especially since Starbucks has already reinstated these employees.  

The case would resolve a disagreement among circuit judges over the scope of power of the National Labor Relations Board, which will often request temporary injunctions against companies that have been accused of violating U.S. labor laws. Currently, half of the U.S. circuit courts apply a two-factor test to determine if an injunction will be granted (if the NLRB’s request is reasonable and serves remedial purposes), and half of the U.S. circuit courts apply a more rigorous four-factor test, which according to Starbucks’ appeal, “considers likelihood of success based on the merits, irreparable harm, countervailing harm to employers, and the public interest.”

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