Back in 2005, Starbucks fired Joe Agins, a barista trying to unionize workers at four Manhattan stores, including his own workplace at Second Avenue and 9th Street, after he and a manager got into a confrontation over pro-union apron pins and Agins decided to say, "You can go fuck yourself. If you want to fuck me up, go ahead, I'm here." The federal National Labor Relations Board ruled at the time that Agins was protesting and therefore protected, but the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Starbucks' concern about cursing out co-workers in front of customers was "entirely legitimate." Now, the NLRB has re-ruled, this time saying Starbucks can't fire a protesting employee if it can't also prove it would've fired him without the protest.
It's a victory for organized labor in a decade-long fight that's become a minor cause célèbre with opponents of the chain's by now well-known union busting. The board says Starbucks must offer Agins his old job back and compensate him with back pay. A company spokesperson says that while they'll use the decision to "determine next steps," they will also remind everyone they "do not tolerate partners cursing in the presence of customers, whether or not they are affiliated with a union."
NLRB: Starbucks Can't Fire Cursing, Pro-Union Worker [Seattle PI]