Employers normally have little to lose by purging organizers, even when it’s found to be illegal. This high-profile case could be different.

By Dave Jamieson, HuffPost

Starbucks fired seven union supporters at a store in Memphis, Tennessee, on Tuesday in what the union has portrayed as a retaliatory purge of the organizing committee. The terminations mark the most significant escalation in the battle between the world’s largest coffee chain and the fast-growing Starbucks Workers United campaign.

The firings made national news, but the reality is that employers fire union activists all the time – whether it’s justified or not. Labor law in the United States gives companies little to lose by ousting organizers. But due to the high profile of the Starbucks campaign, as well as recent changes at the National Labor Relations Board, this case may be different.

A Starbucks store facade

Starbucks insists the firings were not retaliatory. Company spokesperson Reggie Borges said the workers violated safety and security protocols by opening the store outside of business hours and allowing nonemployees in without permission. The case revolves at least in part around an interview that union supporters gave a local TV news station after hours inside a Starbucks store.

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