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Case Study of Starbucks Employees

I believe the National Labor Relations Board was absolutely right in siding with employees in the issue of wearing union pins at workplace, since Starbucks went too far in its desire to control employees. Firstly, the ban to wear more than a single union pin has nothing to do with safety rules and regulations at workplace, but can be seen a measure taken to diminish union support among the workers (Morran, 2012). Secondly, the associate ban to speak about union matters at work disregards the basic human right of freedom of speech, proclaimed by the Constitution. Since employees are allowed to speak about other matters, conversation about the union should not be banned. Thirdly, companies should collaborate with unions to create comfortable workplace for employees, so that they could do their best at workplace. Starbucks does not seem to be interested in the well-being of its employees since instead of trying to engage in its workers’ problem resolution it chooses a way of bans and confrontation.

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However, I believe the Board’s ruling not to reinstate an employee who shouted threats and insults at the manager is justified. Since there were no reasonable grounds for this kind of behavior, such as violations of work agreements by the employer, the employee’s outburst can be considered inappropriate (Judge says Starbucks violated workers’ rights at NYC Stores, 2009). The dismissal seems to be the right price to pay for such a misconduct. The issue whether an employee can be sacked for obscene words has recently caused many debates with federal courts issuing different rulings in similar cases (DeMaria, 2017). This raises the issue of how much leeway should an employer have in setting up standards so as to uphold the company’s corporate culture without risks of being sued by the union.

The fact is that if the rules are harsh the employees would find it difficult to stick to them, while if the rules are lax, corporate culture may be compromised. I think the employers must aim to seek the golden middle, understanding that employees spend at work the best part of their day and would not welcome severe restrictions. However, the minimum rules that allow to uphold corporate culture should be determined and followed by everyone.

I firmly approve of the Board’s decision to reinstate two workers fired because of their union support. I think this decision does not limit Starbucks in the management of its stores, but provides protection and support for workers engaged in union activities. Union activities can not be a reasonable ground for dismissal since unions are created to uphold workers’ rights and privileges.

The attempt to fire union activists casts a shadow over Starbucks company, since it may be seen as unwilling to create comfortable working conditions for its employees. The management of stores does not necessitate such drastic measures as limiting union activities or imposing bans on freedom of speech and, in general, has nothing to do with the employees’ personal believes and feelings. Among other things, effective management creates friendly working environment and that is exactly what Starbucks has so far failed to do. In fact, by imposing bans on union symbolics the company pushes employees to more fully embrace union activities (NLRB orders Starbucks to reinstate two workers, but not a third, 2010). Looking at the example of Starbucks, one can see that striking a balance between corporate culture and comfortable working environment is no easy matter and the National Labor Relations Board must constantly review its standards to issue appropriate rulings in the matter.


DeMaria, A. T. (2017). Contrasting rulings shed light on when an employer may or may not fire an employee for obscenities. Management Report for Nonunion Organizations, 40(7), 3-4. Web.

Judge says Starbucks violated workers’ rights at NYC Stores. (2009). Management Report.

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Morran, C. (2012) Court sides with Starbucks in dispute over labor union pins. Consumerist. Web.

NLRB orders Starbucks to reinstate two workers, but not a third. (2010). Management Report.

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