A nationwide union-organizing campaign by Starbucks workers notched another victory last week, as a federal court issued an injunction against the coffee giant’s corporate management, blocking the company from firing any of its employees engaging in union or collective bargaining activities.

Last week a judge from the U.S. District Court of Eastern Michigan issued an injunction requiring Starbucks to reinstate a fired worker, Hannah Whitbeck, an employee whom an NLRB official described as the "face of the Michigan campaign," according to court documents.

The National Labor Relations Board’s Seventh Region regional director, Elizabeth Kerwin, argued that Starbucks fired Whitbeck for her organizing activities. Starbucks alleged that Whitbeck left her store early, leaving one other employe alone in the shop in violation of a minimum-staffing policy; Whitbeck contends that she had a family emergency which she had to attend to, and that management had instructed staff to not stay past their scheduled time regardless.

Following a deep-dive into the background of the case and comparable disciplinary incidents, an administrative law judge found in October that Whitbeck had been subject to improper disparate treatment.

The federal judge, in turn, found reasonable cause to believe that Starbucks violated portions of the National Labor Relations Act protecting a worker’s right to organize, and ordered a nationwide injunction preventing Starbucks from both firing employees working to organize and from coercing its workers against organizing.

“The District Court’s ruling confirms that Starbucks continues to violate the law in egregious ways, thus requiring a nationwide cease and desist order,” NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo said in a statement. “We will continue to vigorously pursue swift and full remedies for workers whose rights are violated.”

"I’m happy that my case is being viewed at a higher level and bringing attention to Starbucks illegally firing partners for unionizing,” Whitbeck said in a statement to The New York Times and other outlets.

“We feel the extraordinary measure for injunctive relief prior to a full legal review of the matter is unwarranted and maintain that actions taken were lawful and in alignment with established partner policies, said a Starbucks spokesperson. "Notably, Hannah Whitbeck was proactively offered—and accepted—interim reinstatement, rendering the NLRB’s argument for injunctive relief inappropriate. As a result, we will be seeking further review of the court’s opinion and order while the merits of the case are fully adjudicated.”

The decision is the latest in a string of labor decisions against the coffee giant. On Feb. 6, an administrative law judge found that Starbucks violated the NLRA by “interrogating” employees about who supports the union, threatening employees with a loss of benefits and a potential loss of pay increases and/or promotions. 

In January, as originally reported by the Huffington Post, District 12 of the NLRB sought an order requiring Starbucks to recognize the union at a Florida shop, and begin bargaining proceedings — an order that generally only occurs when an employer’s unfair labor practices (including disciplining and firing union-involved employees) have all but made it impossible for workers to vote in favor of a union.

Starbucks workers began a nationwide unionization effort in 2021; since the first union election was won in Buffalo, N.Y. in Dec. 2021, 286 Starbucks stores have unionized.

Note: This story has been updated to clarify circumstances related to Whitbeck's termination and to include a comment from a Starbucks spokesperson.